Got data? You may be thinking, "Yes, I have plenty of it", or maybe, "No, how do I get it?" Even if you have no precision-ag data, chances are you have this data.
Whether it's because of crop insurance, the scale at the elevator, or the monitor in the combine – every grower should have average yield data for each field.
This table is an example of a report that Premier Crop Systems generates for our growers, but you could create a table like this on your own for your operation. The table is fairly simple – it summarizes results by field vertically for each year, and computes the running average yield for each field by crop horizontally. By looking at the table, what are the obvious standouts to you? What decisions would you make?
Let's look at the crop averages in the two far-right columns. Field Little 80 does well in both crops, while Wild West does extremely well in corn with an average of 215, but poor in beans. Stomping Grounds is the opposite, with poor corn averages, but great in beans. Big-League is much like Wild West in the sense that it does very well in corn and not well in beans.
By looking at the yields per year for each field, you can easily pick out which fields are better in a corn-on-corn rotation and which fare better with a traditional corn-soybean rotation. To dig a little deeper, can you tell why they do better with that specific rotation? What might cause these differences? Soil type differences? Drainage? Manure history? Insect issues? Soybean cyst nematode? Are there fields where you get a yield dump in soybeans when they bump in soybeans when they follow corn on corn vs. a corn-and-soybean rotation? These are examples of decisions that can be made from your very own, simple yield data.
To make decisions off of data doesn't mean you have to have all the data in the world. Start simple and work your way up. With every answer you find, you will come up with more and more questions – it is one of the best side effects of analyzing your field data! The grower with even the smallest acreage can make decisions off of his data – because he has it! It just takes a little time to sit down and dig deeper into the numbers that hover around 160 and 50.
*Published in Corn and Soybean Digest.