Evaluation of harvest production data may lead to a more productive and profitable future

Harvest season yields, crop quality and field data are some of the vital tools used in building a farm risk management strategy.

Evaluating harvest data can be very useful in determining this year’s crop production success, or lack of success. Problem areas can be obvious to see as you harvest the field, but much harder to remember later if not recorded in some manner. Here are some examples:

  1. Field by field yield data and variety information
  2. Crop injury( stalk breakage, ear drop, mold, etc.)
  3. Weed outbreaks (location and types of weeds)
  4. Locations of poor plant populations (is there a pattern? planter? What might be the cause?)
  5. Locations of poor plant growth and reduced yields (fertilizer skip, lime, pests, dry areas, soil type, other?)
  6. Wet spots (is there a tile problem?)
  7. Dry spots (soil type, irrigation nozzle?)
  8. Organic matter changes in fields and differences from field to field
  9. The list goes on

Setting harvest evaluation goals prior to the start of harvest season and then building a tactical plan of action to evaluate harvest are some of the foundations of a risk management plan, notes Dennis Stein, district farm management educator for Michigan State University Extension. A great deal of information can be gathered during harvest that could aid the farm’s future profitability. Setting harvest evaluation goals in writing greatly increases the chances that you will follow through and achieve your plan of action.

Harvest data can vary greatly from farm to farm and field to field, which makes this data an important management tool to evaluate not only yield and quality but things such as cash rental rate in relation to crop revenue.

Sophisticated combines have the ability to gather harvest yields and some can even track production based on global positioning system (gps) locations. These high technology systems gather and store information to be analyzed later which takes some of the pressure off the farm producer during the harvest process. Others will use hand held mobile devices that allow information to be compiled into a data base, template or simple text file that can later be sent, copied or otherwise transferred to a computer to print or process the information into a useable format. The old fashioned pocket notepad can also be used to jot down production notes that can be transcribed later for use in production and general farm management activities

Don’t be afraid to use and recruit other resources such as your crop insurance adjuster as they audit yields of your fields. They may be able to provide you with some general field by field yield production data. Those that use a custom combining service may find they have the ability to gather and map data from your farm fields for little or no additional cost. Having field by field production data can allow you to focus on individual fields that may need special management attention. As previously noted, fields with detailed gps data make it easier to identify areas that are in need of drainage, lime, fertilizer or other practices that could increase productivity to the level of the remainder of the field. Most farms are now using their production data to target problem fields or locations with the goal of finding the reasons for production problems that result in economic losses.

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