Garbage In Garbage Out

Garbage In Garbage Out August 24, 2017 Precision Focus from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Keith Byerly

by Keith Byerly

Precision Ag, as a whole, has a fascination, and a conundrum when it comes to Yield Data. The Holy Grail is to take your local data and turn it into useful and useable tools that drive decisions and input application. When it comes to soil or tissue samples, it is a single point that represents multiple acres. When its imagery, it is a distant measurement of a moment in time. But, when it comes to Yield, we have a high-density data set that is unparalleled when it comes to the density of data points, or its relevance to actual representative data in your field. But, the challenge comes in just how easy it is to get bad Yield Data, or perhaps even more specifically, how hard it is to get good yield data.

But why is it difficult to get good yield data? Obviously, there are the external factors that are always at play, like having the monitor on the correct field, having fields structured on your display correctly, or even having good GPS signal. But those are the easy things to address. The one single thing that is most difficult is having your monitor properly calibrated to measure yield well. And the reason it is the most difficult is that it has multiple steps involved in doing it correctly.

I would be foolish to think that in a few minutes I can educate all of you on the proper procedure for each machine. But what I can do is try to convey the importance and the right way to handle the steps that all machines have in common.

Understanding your calibration procedure for your monitor is critical. Some require one calibration load per season, others a load every time you switch hybrids. Others take two loads, four loads, etc. And to make things even trickier, this changes as the software on your display evolves. What your manual says may no longer match up with the firmware on your display. 2 minutes to ask your service guy about any changes this year can mean the difference in good data or poor data.

While we are on the subject of calibration, understanding the load size your display needs is just as critical as the number of loads. Some take a truck load; others take 3,000 pounds. Some want you to drive at a consistent speed; others don’t care about speed. In the case of Climate FieldView, we have to calibrate the Harvest Display on the combine and the iPad separately. Are you confused yet?

But, at the end of the day, it comes back to accuracy. Even if you aren’t doing anything with the data today, chances are that within the next 3-5 years, you will want to use the data from this year in the decision making process for your inputs. That extra 1-2 hours in properly setting up your monitor might mean the difference between having this piece for a future decision or not. But I also want you to remember that all Harvest Monitoring systems are not the same. Systems like Ag Leader have an average error of 0-3% when calculated correctly. Some OEM systems still have an error of 5-10% when calibrated properly.

So, the take home for today is that we will never have another chance to collect this year’s data. We need to make sure we are doing it right and with the right tools. Even though the Yield Monitor has been around for over 20 years, it is probably still the biggest technology stumbling block that we have on the farm today. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how to use it to its fullest potential, or to ask if the OEM system you have can achieve the accuracy you want. There is a bunch of interchangeable parts now within our combines Yield Monitor System. To upgrade to a Yield Monitor that achieves a higher level of data accuracy might not be very expensive, but no matter the cost, will definitely pay dividends in the long run.