Reap Your Precision Data

Ten Minute Tech

The end of harvest means it's time to reap the information

Published on: November 16, 2012

I know you are probably worn out from long hours in the field during the fall harvest and post harvest activities, but don't forget a very important task that is left. Make sure to spend some time looking at your fall collected data. I have had several growers question me about using the data they have from this fall due to the extreme dry conditions of the growing season. They are unsure if there is any value in the harvest data. In my opinion we have as much to learn as ever from this fall's data.

The goal of precision agriculture is to evaluate variability and make management decisions to improve overall profitability. The decisions and their impacts on variability will need to be evaluated whether it

is dry, wet or somewhere in between. So where do you begin?

Start by thinking back last spring and ask yourself what did you intend to do this fall with your data. Did you put out any plots that you were intending to use to evaluate your practices? Were you planning on working with your agronomist to look at yield patterns to see how it matches up to your soil sampling patterns? Did you want to use your yield data to add one more layer to your normalized yield maps? Next, ask yourself what could be the impact of the dry season on the results.

For example let's think about a nitrogen rate trial. There is still value in looking at this plot even though you may find that rate of nitrogen makes no difference to yield given the dry conditions. If this is indeed what you find, your next evaluation needs to be how many years in ten do you expect these conditions to exist? If it is every year then plan on putting on your lowest rate. If it is one in ten then you ignore this year's data and go with previous year's results. The point is you really need to know how your program stacks up in a dry year.

From the harvest data that I have already evaluated this year, there is a great deal of variability within each strip. Due to soil type and landscape position there are areas that have almost zero yield while others show normal yield. The great thing about GPS referenced yield monitor data is that you can take advantage of these differences and evaluate your treatments in areas of like-soil type and landscape.

This same methodology can be employed for all of your plots including variety trials, tillage plots, spray applications, etc. When it comes to evaluating plot data if you do not make comparisons in like-conditions you are sacrificing a great deal of the data's value.

I strongly suggest you take the time to see what you can learn from your data this fall regardless of the conditions that helped produce it.