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Bill Menkveld, Greentronics

A Whole New Reality for Yield Monitoring

If you’re firmly against yield monitoring and think it’ll never have a place in your potato fields, I understand.

Twenty years ago when yield monitors first made big waves in agriculture, they didn’t offer much benefit to potato farmers. While the monitors churned out reams of data, most farmers were unsure how to translate that data into useful information. Analysis programs seemed to be designed more for statisticians and computer scientists than real-world farmers. Field mapping technology hadn’t yet caught up to yield collecting technology: since farmers had no way to overlay a soil map or a topographical map on a yield map, they couldn’t correlate cause and effect into practical agronomic decisions. And inaccurate yield measurements caused by debris often thwarted even the most enthusiastic farmers’ yield monitoring efforts.

Luckily, the current reality is far different.

Today’s yield monitors offer incredible insights into what’s really happening in different parts of your field.

Now, yield data is no longer stand-alone information. With soil testing and a variety of mapping functions now common on many farms, yield data can be combined with all kinds of other field and crop information to much better determine reasons for yield fluctuations.

Analysis software is much more user-friendly than it was in the past, and is able to pull far more information together into clear maps and reports. Today, using the reports to make agronomic decisions is certainly possible for most growers, especially with assistance from an agronomist.

And monitoring reliability has made big strides forward too. In the past, many potato growers voiced concerns about yield monitors’ data integrity and reliability because precise yield data can be obscured by entrapped debris such as clods or rocks. However, farmers today are starting to realize they don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. In fact, farmers who know their fields well find it simple to filter out false data and/or make appropriate adjustments.

So, consider your yield map your farm’s report card. It can tell a clear and obvious story about whether your management choices are helping to reduce variability, lower input costs, achieve optimum yields from areas with the highest yield potential and/or economize in areas of lower yield potential.

Many grain and cash crop farmers whose land nets in the range of $50 per acre have been using yield monitors for more than a decade. Potato acres may net 30 times as much. With value like that in your fields, it just makes sense to base farming decisions on clear data and quality information rather than guesswork and chance.

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