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Tips to keep up your yield monitor

Jeff Caldwell 08/30/2012 @ 9:25am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Field conditions are going to be tough enough when you get harvest underway this fall. Don't let a faulty yield monitor make things even worse. Yields may be bad enough; don't let bad yield data add insult to injury.

"When harvest time approaches it can become time consuming and discouraging to calibrate yield monitors on combines. However, improperly calibrated yield monitors can essentially generate useless or difficult-to-interpret data," says Ohio State University Extension geospatial specialist Nathan Watermeier. "Taking the time and patience to calibrate a yield monitor properly can go a long way when it comes time to make important decisions from your yield data."

That process starts well before you even turn a wheel. First, it's a good idea to start with a clean slate of data. That means making sure all your past data is backed up and saved elsewhere.

"Hack up any data from the PCMCIA memory cards if you have not done so already from the previous season. After the previous harvest data is backed up delete the files from the memory card," Watermeier says. "It is good practice to keep several back up copies of the raw data in different locations in case it is lost, stolen, damaged or modified."

Then, make sure your hardware and software is ready to go. Check all your cables and make sure they're in good shape, then consult with your dealer or hardware maker to make sure you're running the right operating system and you've got all the necessary software upgrades installed.

Next, make sure your unit's connected correctly in your combine cab. That includes making sure the monitor and memory card are working together, and you're getting a solid satellite signal. Then, take a few test runs in the combine and make sure the monitor is collecting the data it needs to be.

"Engage the separator and observe the elevator speed on the monitor to see if it is working.

Put the combine in drive and make sure the ground speed indicator is working. Before calibrating loads make sure you will be using accurate scales to weigh the grain," Watermeier says. "Moving the weigh wagon through a field causes it to shake and bounce which can throw off the calibration of the weigh wagon. Make sure you are also using the same scales throughout calibration."

It's a good idea to take your time and be very thorough while you're calibrating your monitor, Watermeier adds. That means collecting temperature and moisture readings while you're running, and be consistent with the loads you use to calibrate.

"When calibrating monitor for ground speeds use typical field conditions rather than a road or waterway. Tire slippage can create inaccuracy with calibration. Gather loads in well represented areas of the field. Avoid starting calibration loads on turn rows, weed patches, or areas of major topography changes in the field. Hillsides and rolling ground can impact calibration load data because of how the grain impacts the flow sensor. If you are unable to avoid topographical changes make sure you get a good representation of loads going up-and-down hill and side-to-side of a hill," Watermeier says. "It is recommended to calibrate for each type of grain for each year. The dynamics of the combine changes from wear and tear and can influence the outcome of your yield data. Calibrate for different moisture levels per type of grain. For example, calibrate differently for corn below 22% moisture versus corn above 22% moisture."

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