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Get Set for Success, Part 1: My Top Tips to Get the Most From Yield Monitoring

I attend a lot of ag expos and field days, a lot of ag-tech conferences and tradeshows. Though those events keep me away from home more than I’d like, I love each opportunity to connect with farmers. I’m always reminded that there’s something special about people who commit their lives to this industry: farming might not be the most lucrative or the easiest business to be in, but it sure draws people who are passionately, deeply committed. Getting to know farmers, from small acreages and large and from coast to coast, has changed how I do business. Whereas in the early days, I might have thought my highest priority was innovation and new ideas, now I think a tech company’s most important role is helping farmers stay afloat in a world of tightening margins, increasing costs and changeable markets. A big, huge piece of that isn’t about selling farmers new technology; it’s about giving farmers the information they need to get the most out of their technology.

Monitoring yield can offer incredible insight into what’s really happening in different parts of a potato field. It can explain a lot about crops, fields, and production practices, and is a great reference for any important farm decision. Producers often tell me they’re concerned aboutinstalling and maintaining yield monitoring hardware, gathering and managing data. They’re smart to have those thoughts in mind: monitoring isn’t hard but it only works if you take several steps to stay on track. Here’s what I recommend to maximize a yield monitor’s return:

First get familiar with the technology and the information it generates. The technology isn’t particularly complicated: at its simplest, the technology is load cells that weigh the crop as it moves along the conveyor, speed sensors that monitor conveyor speed, GPS to link data to location, and a data collection device that passes the information along to you. Still, the technology does require some know-how, so spend some time with the operator’s manual and the monitor itself. If you collected yield data in years previous, review that data to look for any misses and inconsistencies. If you can’t figure out why any data gaps happened and how you can fix that this season, call your agronomist, equipment dealer or us at Greentronics to gather ideas and answers.

Second, be mindful of wear and damage. Get in the habit of doing an intensive check-over pre-harvest and then regular walk arounds each time you use the machine. Shorts and complete failures can be caused by normal wear and tear or even rodent damage.

Third, calibrate and test. Yield data is only as accurate as the equipment gathering it. Always keep an eye on load weights and do a “reality check” to make sure the data seems in line with what you know about your field. It’s also strongly recommended that you run tare calibrations whenever you change fields and whenever conditions change (e.g. wet soil to dry).

Finally, remember: you don’t have to figure out your technology on your own. Regardless of what technology you’re using, easy-to-talk-to tech support and accessible customer service should be a given. Most technology companies feel the way I do: we love our business, are proud of our technology, and are always happy to make time to help producers!

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