Decisions from Yield Data
You probably use your yield monitor data differently than your neighbor. For Jim Braddock, there are two areas he focuses on: evaluating hybrids and managing zones.
• Evaluating hybrids. “I split my 16-row corn planter between two hybrids on every field,” he explains. “I’m evaluating those hybrids clear across the field. If I have two hybrids that I want to really, really check, I go in and harvest one round of each and actually weigh each, because test weight can affect the yield monitor.”
At the end of the season, he goes through the printouts and evaluates every hybrid for the following season. “For me, the very first thing is yield,” says Braddock. “When I try a new hybrid, I try to plant it with at least a couple of different hybrids I’ve planted for years. If it’s not competitive – as good or better than what I have it against – it’s not worth planting.
“If it doesn’t fall on its face the first year, I’ll try it again. After the second year, if it’s not up there, I look at another option,” he says.
“We analyze seed varieties to see how they’ve done over several different fields and soil types,” says Barker. “Having accurate data lets us see what’s working but, more importantly, what’s not working.”
With $60 to $63 invested in a bag of soybeans and $170 to $250 on corn, benching a player for poor performance is a call Braddock is willing to make. For example, when a soybean variety he used for nearly nine years was discontinued, he gave its replacement a shot because its predecessor had exceptional talent.
“If it wasn’t my best bean every year, it was right at the top,” he recalls. “The one they replaced it with was supposed to be better, but it wasn’t. Now, they’ve come out with another one, which I tried this year. I’ll see how it does.”
As seed companies phase out hybrids faster than they used to and introduce new ones, you have to have accurate information to evaluate performance.
The yield monitor is also telling Braddock that varieties with added traits aren’t paying.
“There’s only been a couple of times that the traited corn has broken even,” he says. “At 34,000 seeds per acre, a bag of corn will do 2.35 acres. If it costs $23.50 a bag more, that’s $10 an acre, yet it’s not generating any more yield. It’s more insurance than anything else. I’m planting less and less each year.”
Plant population is another area he’s reviewing. “If I have ground that starts to plateau on yield, I may jump the population to 38,000 or 40,000. It all comes back to the information I’m getting off of the yield monitor,” he notes.
• Managing zones. “We’ll make management zones based off of yield,” says Barker. “Then, we’ll go in and soil-test those zones and make variable-rate fertilizer and lime prescriptions.”
Braddock says he’s doing that off of the data from the yield monitor on crop removal.
“We’re making fertilizer applications based purely off of crop removal and what that field actually needs, which is important,” says Barker. “We can’t stress the environmental part of this enough – especially the way things are in the public today.”
Five Common Uses for Accurate Yield Monitor Data
1. Evaluate effects of natural field features
2. Target low- or high-yielding areas to diagnose why those areas yield less or more than others
3. Compare one hybrid's performance to another
4. Evaluate results of carefully planned on-farm research trials
5. Calculate rates of application for phosphorous and potassium to replace nutrients removed during harvest