4 Informational Tips You Need to Go Beyond Yield

Posted by Katie McWhirter on 10/15/21 9:15 AM
Katie McWhirter

I was recently reading an article in Crops and Soils titled, Assessing On-Farm Economics of Soil Health, and I immediately knew I was going to enjoy the article. One of the first sentences states: "Producers often comment that economics drive farm management decisions." This statement is so true! I would contend that economics drive all decisions. Using your data to discover economic insights and in turn, using that new knowledge to make more confident decisions is imperative.

For years, growers have used yield as a measurement of success. It’s the fun stuff to talk about, take a picture and post that monitor on social media, or talk about it at the local coffee club.  But, what has been misconstrued is that yield always equals profitability.

I remember years ago when a grower’s son called me and asked me to send him the list of hybrids and their yield in order to cut the bottom half, because they weren’t going to ‘make the cut’ next year.  When I showed up to deliver these results, I explained where each hybrid was planted and the reason they might be the ‘bottom half'. It wasn’t the hybrids themselves, but other yield limiting factors. This was before calculating the price of seed into the mix.

Calculating Profitability

What if one of the hybrids on the ‘bottom half' performed well under the conditions where it was placed and was potentially more profitable? 

I was listening as one of my current growers was having the ‘Hybrid Debate’ with his father. I decided to dig in and provide them with some insights. What we discovered was quite interesting and told a much better story. Had we not looked at the analytics paired with the economics, it would've had a much different ending.

In the graph below, the hybrid on the left was the highest yielding, but when we factored in the Seed Cost/bu, the data didn’t lie.

Seed x Hybrid x Pop-01-4

This chart helps us compare the hybrids that were planted on this growers operation and you can see the hybrid on the right was the best for the grower’s pocketbook, but not the highest yielding. If they grower would have used yield as his success metric, he might be selecting the wrong hybrids for next year. Using the economic data paired with agronomic data we were able to use their analytics for confident decision making.

Just like everything else in the world, agriculture is evolving. Using yield as our key metric of success in the past was not wrong, but we didn’t know what we didn’t know! This is just one of the many examples of what new knowledge can be created when you start putting all of the pieces together to get a better picture of your farm efficiency.

4 Informational Tips

Here are the 4 tips you can use in order to see the full scope of your farm:

  1. Soil fertility information:  Are you including soil fertility information in your analytics and decision making? Input prices are on the rise, and by using your data, you can make a more confident financial decision in placing fertilizer.
  2. Applied information:  
    1. Seed: Did you variable rate your seed? What hybrid was placed where, and at what rate(s)?
    2. Fertilizer: Did you variable rate your fertilizer? Did you put different rates on different fields? Did some get manure and others commercial fertilizer? Each application has an economic impact.
    3. Crop Protection: Were they flat-rated? Did certain fields get different products? Did you try foliars or test new products to see how they perform on YOUR fields? What was their economic impact? All products perform somewhere, did they perform on yours? Did they perform in some areas more so than others? Did they have a financial advantage, and if so, how much?
  3. Invoices: All of those invoices should be tied not only to a field, but where they occurred within a field. If you variable rate your seeds, then your seed expense was variable throughout the field. Same for any other application that you made that was not put on at the same rate throughout the field.
  4. Yield data: Even if you do not have a yield monitor, do all of your fields yield the same? If you do have a yield monitor, and your yield map is not all one color (meaning the values differ from that magic ‘Average Yield’ for the entire field), that means that profitability is not equal across the field.  

Katie Blog - Yield is Not Equal-01-2

Putting the pieces together will help you understand the profitability of each field and within each part of the field. When you work with a company like Premier Crop you will learn new insights that can and should help you make decisions for next year. Next years purchasing decisions are being made now! Use your data from this year to make decisions on input dollars going into the 2022 crop a lot less stressful.

farm efficiency

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Premier Crop Systems, based out of Des Moines, IA, started in 1999 to deliver better agronomic decisions through data analysis that lead to higher yields, increased profits and more sustainable practices for customers. 

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