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Last-Minute Tech Maneuvers for Harvest

08/08/2014 @ 3:38pm

What's your game plan? Since many input decisions are made based on product performance, accurately measuring and tracking yields are crucial parts of one Ohio farmer’s playbook.

Harvest is Jim Braddock’s one and only chance to monitor, map, and evaluate data on his crop’s performance. His entire season has led up to this pivotal moment. The maneuvers he makes in the next few weeks will determine what his playbook will include next season.

Like a coach leading a team, the plays that the Fredericktown, Ohio, farmer calls before he takes the field ensures he is collecting the most accurate information possible, and include a properly calibrated yield monitor.

“If I’m going to use the data from my John Deere 2630 monitor to make important decisions, I have to take the time to keep it calibrated,” he says. “If it’s not calibrated within 2% to 3%, as far as I’m concerned, the data is worthless.”

One and done is not enough
As one of the most widely adopted technologies in ag, ensuring a yield monitor is at the top of its game should automatically be part of your playbook.

“Economic risk in agriculture has increased dramatically,” says John Barker, assistant professor and Extension educator, Ohio State University. “Considering the amount of economic risk involved in each decision, taking the time to properly calibrate a yield monitor is essential if the data will be used to make future agronomic decisions for a farming operation.”

A recent poll on Agriculture.com reveals that 67% of farmers calibrate their monitors. While a large percentage may be calibrating, the real question is are they doing it as often as they should?

“Many producers only calibrate their equipment once a year,” says Matt Darr, associate professor, Iowa State University.

He recommends a minimum of once per year per crop plus additional calibrations whenever the moisture content changes by ±4%.

“For a typical Midwest corn/soybean producer, this results in usually three calibrations per year,” says Darr. “That’s certainly not too much of a burden to maintain good data quality.”

The reason you may have a one-and-done mind-set revolves around the process itself. “In general, the calibration process is more complex than many other machinery setup processes.

Yet, it is so critical to the evaluation of crop performance,” notes Darr.

“It takes a little time (about an hour if you’ve used the monitor in the previous season) to calibrate properly, but not that much compared to the value of the data you’re going to get in return,” adds Barker.

Taking the time to properly calibrate a yield monitor goes a long way when it comes time for Barker to assist Braddock in making important decisions based on yield data.

“I take his yield data and make variable-rate fertilizer prescriptions for him. We’ll talk about what fertilizer amounts he’s going to use, what fields he’s going to fertilize, and in what order,” explains Barker.

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