Your yield is not a static number.
If you walk away from this article remembering just one thing, this is what I want that thing to be: your yield is not a static number. Sure, you have a number in your head today, and you’ve probably based your Nitrogen investment thus far on that number. Perfect. That’s exactly what should have transpired up to this point in time.
But this should be the point in time that you realize that it’s a 100+ days until you can get a glimpse of that number’s actual accuracy.
And that should change the way you proceed.
In the end, this is about how to best use your Nitrogen investment and this is my plea: if you haven’t laid it all out there yet, really think again about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Because, one more time, your yield is not a static number.
That number in your head is an estimate. Yes, one based on historical knowledge and an artisan’s feel for his or her craft, but an estimate still. It’s all it can be right now. As you travel toward harvest though—as you get nearer your destination—that estimate should change and sharpen and gain in accuracy given the situation, adjusting up or down for how the season unfolds for your particular crop. Until it’s not an estimate anymore, but your harvest.
Consider your GPS or Google Maps or whatever you use to get around these days. You input North Platte and the technology tells you that its 221 miles away and a 3 hour drive based on the speed limit, so it gives you an estimated arrival time 3 hours out. But as you drive, that arrival time is being constantly adjusted depending on your speed. That estimated arrival time gets increasingly accurate right up until the very end, when it’s no longer an estimate, but a telling of the fact of the time.
Yield is exactly the same way.
In about 30 some days, you’ll get a stand count. If it’s better than expected, that yield number in your head will go up. If it’s worse, it’ll go down.
In 60 some days, you’ll get a sense of growth vigor. If it’s better than expected, that number goes up. Worse, then it goes down.
In 90 some days, you’ll have images and models available. Again, depending on how they look, that number goes up or that number goes down.
The nearer you approach harvest, not only does that yield number increase in accuracy, but as it does, and here we return to your Nitrogen investment, also the better you can manage efficiencies to mitigate risk and poise yourself for the most profitable outcome possible.
Managing your Nitrogen investment in windows allows you to adjust your approach depending on the situation and prevents an under- or over-estimation of your Nitrogen needs, meaning that you grow the most with just enough.
Understanding that your yield number is constantly in flux is truly the first step on the path toward Nitrogen enlightenment. If you find yourself fighting it though, that’s okay too. Give me a ring, in fact, because it took me a long time to come around myself. What I’ve come to peace with though (and I’ll save you the conversion story for now) is that working with the system, instead of trying to make the system work for you, is good for all involved, including your land, crops, community, and wallet. Your yield is simply going to change as the season develops. If you can roll with that, you’ll waste minimally and grow as much as possible, which is exactly what we all want.