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Tips to keep up your yield monitor

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."

Finally, once you're rolling this fall, make sure you pay frequent attention to your monitor hardware and software. That means frequent calibration and data backup.

"If you have a long harvest season it would be wise to do periodic calibration loads throughout the season to check or improve accuracy. It is suggested to recalibrate if you see more than a 5% difference in error, 5 lb/bushel differences in test weight, or temperature changes greater than 10 degrees," Watermeier says. "It is recommended to take your PCMCIA card out of the monitor and back-up data onto your computer and data storage devices frequently throughout the harvest season. A simple electrical shock form improper wiring or lightning can destroy your data on your card. If significant changes are made to the elevator chain, paddles, or flow sensor during harvest you will need to recalibrate. Tightening the elevator chain, replacing old paddles or changing the gap of the flow sensor to the paddles changes the outcome of the previous calibration."

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