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Monitor your yield monitor

Agriculture.com Staff 10/07/2009 @ 10:11am

Nobody's perfect. When it comes to crop consistency and uniformity, that includes Mother Nature.

No field is 100% uniform -- moisture, test weight and grain volume are just a few variables that can trip up even the most high-tech yield monitor system today. But, that doesn't automatically render the data you're gleaning as you pick this fall's corn inaccurate. If you calibrate regularly, taking into account these crop variables, you'll still get a clear picture of the grain that's pouring into the hopper.

"The combine automates yield monitoring by gathering data from various sensors, including speed, position, header height and width, mass-flow and moisture. Each of these sensors contributes an essential piece of data necessary to the production of an accurate yield map," says University of Wisconsin biological systems engineering specialist Matthew Digman. "Although time investment may seem significant, calibrating your monitor is necessary to ensure accurate yield maps and subsequent management decisions."

Once you've got your field size data entered into your monitor, you've programmed in the header width and you're "serious about harvesting (separator on, header down)," you may need to calibrate your monitor for your ground speed. If you're using a GPS-guided system, Digman says there's no need for this step.

"Those using a speed pickup or doppler-shift system need to calibrate their speed sensor," he says. "The procedure varies by machine, but in general it requires traveling a known, measured distance under field conditions (header attached and grain tank half full). This distance is used in conjunction with the sensor's output to correct its calibration."

The wetter the grain, the heavier. Higher moisture levels can skew yield data, making it important to calibrate for moisture levels.

"Grain yields must be corrected for moisture, otherwise wetter, heavier grain will skew the yields higher while drier, lighter grain will appear to decrease yield. The moisture sensor's calibration also needs periodic adjustment as conditions change," Digman says. "This process usually includes taking a few representative samples from the grain tank to the elevator for analysis; the values from the elevator are then used to update the combine's calibration."

Nobody's perfect. When it comes to crop consistency and uniformity, that includes Mother Nature.

So, now you've got your speed sensor ready to go. Next on the list: Grain density. Knowing how dense your grain is will go a long way toward an accurate yield assessment, according to Digman. Again, knowing what kind of hardware you're dealing with is key.

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