If anything is going to convince a grower to give a new technology a try, it’s positive feedback from other growers. So consider this: in all my years working with producers, I have never yet had a single customer who, after seeing their yield monitoring data for the first time, said: ‘That’s not interesting. I don’t need to see any more.’ Growers always want to see more because yield maps are instantly and immediately informative.
Yield monitoring is the simplest, most effective way to fine tune potato field management, providing a report card for the year just completed and a guidebook for the year to come. While some producers still imagine that monitoring technology must be intimidating and overwhelming, those who give it a try quickly realise it is built to be user-friendly and pays itself back, on average, in less than two years.
Data produced by a yield monitor is simple and ready to use. Yield data files are essentially spreadsheet files of columns denoting latitude, longitude, and production volume. When uploaded into purpose-built software (as simple as opening the software program and clicking ‘upload’), spreadsheet data automatically translates into maps.
All fields have production variability due to inconsistent drainage, topography, soil types, fertility, etc. Identifying areas of differing production performance, whether yield volume or yield quality, is the first step towards addressing different needs across a field.
Capturing yield data in hard numbers also allows a producer to calculate rather than guestimate whether certain fixes offer return on investment. For example, the decision of whether or not to install costly drainage tile to correct overly-wet areas or the effort/benefit analysis of applying variable rate versus consistent rate fertilizer is clear when the decision is mathematically based.
Yield monitoring over multiple years allows a producer to determine whether areas of best yield or real trouble are growing, shrinking or stable from year to year. Stable, uniform areas can be managed as viable management zones; changing areas can be more actively managed to limit additional yield loss.
Some experts argue management decisions should never be based on a single year of yield data. I disagree. Yes, it is incredibly useful to compare data from multiple production years (and simple software now exists that performs side-by-side comparisons of yield data from multiple crop types). Even a a single year of data can be illuminating and educational, however, giving a producer a different perspective in order to ask better questions, seek better answers, and fine-tune their management choices.
To those still hesitant about yield monitoring, remember that you are not alone: today, virtually all agronomic consultants and crop-input specialists are able to accept yield monitor data and will gladly work with a producer.
In short, the tools are now in place for farmers to take advantage of this incredible technology: it just requires some bravery to take the plunge.