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Sponsored: Using Multi-Year Yield Maps to Drive Decisions
Too often we look at our hybrid or fertilizer strategy from one growing season and decide whether or not to change our approach. In order to make educated management decisions, what we really need is to gather data from multiple growing seasons.
In the last 5 years we have seen huge variations in the type of season we experienced. Each year our yield maps have looked drastically different. The only thing we can try to do is make management decisions that diminish our risk, extend our window for in-field operations, and increase our profitability from year to year. In 2012 alone, we had record temperatures, went days without rainfall and produced record low yields. 2013 was a mixed bag environmentally for many growers, while 2014 turned out to be a bumper crop in many parts of the corn belt. That was followed by a record wet year with huge N loss in 2015. Finally we arrive at 2016 where much of the Midwest experienced minimal N loss and exceptionally high mineralization of organic nitrogen.
As we look back on the huge variance in growing seasons from 2012 to the 2016, you can imagine how different the yield maps look. After 2012 the low ground was the highest yielding spot but after 2015 it was the area with the lowest yield. So what do we do with those yield maps at the end of each year?
- Don’t look at one year’s maps, they only tell you what worked that year in that area.
- Don’t make fertility decisions off of average yields in a field; that will create average results.
- Do carefully examine multiple years of data and begin to create qualitative management zones and long-term decisions that can impact the performance in those zones. For instance, do you see opportunities to correct drainage issues? What about subsurface density layers that impede root growth? How about pH hot spots that can be corrected?
The bottom line is, be careful not to react to last year, accumulate multiple years of data and understand that time and information is your friend. Real time in-season decision making will also allow you to accumulate a deeper understanding of the current growing season and make a decision that overlays yield map data from past years with this year’s conditions to make the best decision as it pertains to current conditions.