For most of you, the 2016 growing season is in the books. And while some of you are already fully in the swing of things for our 2017 crop, I think it’s safe to say that most of our input decisions for next year are still out there in front of us. Yes, we might have some fall fertilizer applications, but nothing else set in stone for next year. This flexibility is a good thing because now we can start our post game analysis.
I was pretty adamant this fall about making sure we were recording the data that accompanied our year, and I promise it’s for good reason. Now that time is on our side we need to start turning what is in our notebook and on our data cards into actionable information. Those two sources of data, the observational data, and the historical GPS specific data vary a lot in what they offer us, but at the same time both hold unique value. In broad terms, what do we have, and what should we be doing with it?
GPS Specific Data
The beauty of this is that for one of our ACS specialists, it’s very easy for them to identify areas of interest. Through the use of GIS software, we can identify low yielding or high yielding areas. From there, we can begin to overlay other data layers to look for correlation in data. What did Phosphate levels or pH look like in areas of lower yielding beans? Did we have excessive Potassium or Nitrogen in areas of high yields on corn? In any case, we can use the GIS software to dissect multiple layers of data and take personal bias out of the equation.
These are visual observations you make throughout the season and specifically during harvest. Often, but not always, we need to combine this with the GPS data to reference where in the field our issues are, and if they have become yield influencing or input impacting. The observational data often feels more real to use because it was three dimensional. We saw it in front of us, not just on a piece of paper. Another thing about the observational data is, it may not be measurable on a map, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t real. Often, enough other things are happening around it that a data layer looks fairly consistent, but different factors are influencing yield across the field.
So today’s take home message; all of this data is important, but at the same time worthless. A notebook or data card in the desk is worth no more than a map book on the shelf. We need to study this information and begin to make decisions with it. At the end of the day, one thing we all have for every field is a yield goal. Some of us have a yield goal of 220 across the farm; others have a different goal for every piece of land. But this data we have collected needs to be used to start defining yield goals for each area in our field. If we have a few years of good data, we can use this data to identify yield stability. Yield Stability is the consistency of yield in an area over time. Is this area always high, always average, always low, or variable? If it’s variable, what factor causes the variability? (hint: it’s usually water)
More of us need to develop site specific yield goals. It not only plays into our fertility plans, but also our seed hybrid/variety and planting rate decisions, water application, and other input choices as well. When we have real data, we can make much better recommendations that match your goals and your reality. While I don’t care for the term decision ag, that is what we need to be thinking about. Acting on this data is a heck of a lot more important than collecting it. But much like a meal, you can’t eat it before you make it.