Now that harvest is complete and fieldwork is wrapping up, the season of paperwork and planning is upon us as we turn our focus to a new crop year. But before you put 2016 completely behind you, don’t leave one of the most valuable tools for learning and improvement sitting in your combine. Put your yield data to use! Here are three ways start using your yield data:

1. Recordkeeping

Referencing yield maps as you evaluate field performance can be extremely helpful. Even if you carefully document every scale ticket, a yield map can be a nice way to double check the number of bushels that came off of each field. Yield data is also a great way to reference yields in the future. Three years from now, if you want to see how a field performed in 2016, it will be a lot easier to locate and analyze a yield map than to sort out and calculate yield from old scale tickets.

2. Variability

Yield maps are especially helpful in understanding not just how many bushels came from each field, but also where in the field they came from. Which parts of the field yielded more or less? More importantly, why? Most farmers know their fields well; you may not need a yield map to tell you that the sand ridges yielded less this year because it was a dry summer. The real value comes in combining the colors of the map with your knowledge of the field to answer the “why” question. Look for patterns that surprise you and ask yourself what happened to cause those patterns.
Yield map variability can also be helpful documentation when dealing with partners, landlords, and/or family members. For example, being able to document a 20 percent yield reduction due to poor drainage can help you to make the case for adding tile. Or, showing the yield difference between normal and low pH levels can help justify a lime investment. Did you try a new variety of seed this year? Or maybe you applied nitrogen at different rates or left a test strip from a fungicide application? If you can pair these factors with an as-planted or as-applied map, your yield map can help you understand how different practices performed.

3. Variable-Rate Technology

More and more farms now have planters or applicators capable of variable-rate application. Yield maps can be one of the best sources of data for defining management zones within a field. In multi-hybrid planting trials in 2015, there was a substantially higher return-on-investment for farmers who used multiple years of yield data compared to those who used soil type maps to define their planting zones.

But even if you don’t have variable-rate technology now, it’s very possible that you might have it in the future. And the farmers who have the most success with variable-rate applications are those who have multiple years of yield maps to use. Collecting yield data is not just a one-year benefit; it’s an investment for the future.

Regardless of how you plan to use the data now, the most important thing is to take the data from the monitor and store it in a safe place. Beck’s offers a great tool to help with storing and using data with FARMserver. You can easily upload your data, generate yield maps, conduct analysis, and make management zones and variable rate prescriptions. For more information on how to use FARMserver, visit our Help section.

You have a great tool that has been sitting in your combine keeping track of your crop all harvest season. Now it’s time to put it to use!

By Mike Hannewald, CCA Field Agronomist