This blog is dedicated to sharing timely and relevant precision ag information with county Extension agents and growers.

While the 2020 corn crop has been out of the fields for few months now, many growers are also wrapping up the cotton harvest and will be done soon. As the harvest season comes to a close, it is a good time to implement some best management practices to properly inspect and maintain harvest technology after the harvest as well as to ensure that one of the most valuable tools (yield data) for learning and improvement is not left on the yield monitor but transferred and put into use effectively. Here are few points to consider to make the most out of the collected yield data and for taking care of the yield monitors on the grain combines and cotton pickers during the off-season:

Export and Backup Yield Data: Make sure to take the time and export all the data collected during harvest out of the yield monitor to an external data card or flash drive and create a backup copy of your raw data from the season. This is an important step to prevent data loss due to any technology or equipment issues after the harvest season or before forgetting about the recorded yield data, therefore it should be completed as soon as possible after finishing the harvest. For growers utilizing a wireless data transfer and cloud storage services, check the data management app or software to verify that all harvest data has been transferred successfully from the yield monitor into the cloud and on their smart device.         

Finish and Secure Field Notes: Field notes taken during the growing season and harvest are valuable information that can help explain variability in resulting yield maps as well as influence management decisions when generating prescription maps for next crop. Make sure to gather and save (if possible, make copies or take pictures in your phone) all the field notes at a convenient and secure location where they are easy to access when analyzing yield data or discussing crop management decisions with your consultant. It is always a good practice to document all load weights used for yield monitor calibration and final calibration factors as it can be useful information for the next harvest season.

Clean and Check Components: Yield monitoring components along with the harvest equipment can accumulate a lot of dirt and debris during field operation, therefore make sure to properly clean them from both the inside and outside. Do not forget that harvest debris can attract rodents which can cause damage to wires and other electrical components. Inspect all the harvest and yield monitor components for wear and damage, and make a list of parts that need to be repaired or replaced before the next season. Again, a good practice is to replace needed components as soon as possible to save time and prevent running into any last minute issues before next harvest.         

Check GPS and Display: Proper care and maintenance of the GPS and all other yield monitoring components is important to ensure that the yield monitor is working and ready for data collection next season. After exporting and creating a backup of all yield data, perform a final check on the yield monitor to make sure that all components (sensors and modules) are working properly and note down any subscription services (GPS correction services or display unlocks) that needs to be renewed before next harvest. Turn off the display and consider taking off the GPS receiver and the display for inside storage inside during the winter months and before next use.           

Analyze and Utilize Yield Data: While it is easier to collect yield data, taking the time or having the technical expertise to sort through that information and analyze it to understand the production and profitability in each field can become a challenging task. However, it is also an important step that must be performed to turn that data into insight and understand which management practices may be adjusted to maximize productivity across the whole field. Currently, there are numerous Ag Data Management platforms that range from simple to powerful and cheap to expensive. For most growers, it is better to stick with basic apps or digital tools (such as Climate FieldView) to visualize and analyze yield maps as they are easy to use and compare yield by variety or soil type. If interested in deeper and more detailed analysis, invest in a computer-based software (AgLeader SMS Advanced is a good option among many others) or work with a trusted crop advisor to help analyze your yield data and make informed decisions for next crop.  

Don’t forget that when analyzing yield data, the key is to keep it simple and create actionable information – use multi-year data when available, look for trends instead of details, and keep the management zones to two or three.