Scratching the Surface of Yield Loss

Between the Fencerows

Lessons in post-harvest observations, part one

Published on: November 14, 2013

We're coming up on the time of year when we pull out our mental notes, scribbled maps and yield maps, and hope they all match up to point to the same trouble spots we see in the fields. 

When we revisit fields I hope to find a flag left from the day we harvested the field.  Sometimes the marker will be an empty water bottle stuck on a corn stalk; other times, the stalks may have just been cut high. 

First I'll look at the most obvious.  Is the spot on the map a water hole or a sand knob?  This year, both are showing up on yield maps.  If the issue was due to excess water, we will look to drainage as a solution.  If drainage isn't an economical solution due to size or topography, we may just have to live with it. 

If I know it's a sandy spot, the best evaluation that can be made will determine if the seed selected for that field was suited.  Were there lots of spots or areas that may have been remedied by using more drought tolerant seed?  

The evaluation on seed choice will go in the memory bank for December discussions on seed placement for 2014.

Next, I'll look at herbicide.  Did it perform?  Was the yield loss due to weed competition?  Should we have made another herbicide application to clean up the field? 

If a weed issue shows up in the same location more than one year, we'll take note and add them as specific points on the scouting passes for next year.

On occasion, a plant will take a combine ride until it is examined.  I will also look at stalk remnants and roots to see if they look normal.  Sometimes I'll take plant remnants back to send to the lab or agronomist.  I'll also look to see if all the plants were present at harvest.  Deer damage is quite obvious; sometimes that will be written in the field notes. 

Come back next week as I go below the surface to "probe deeper into yield loss"