Path to Precision

Action Plan Step 4: Evaluate Yield

14 Dec 2021

Ultimately, when it comes to major improvements and increased profitability across your farm operation, all roads point towards your yield. You can have the most efficient processes in your crop cycle, with the utmost precision, but a poor yield can have a disastrous impact on returns. Sometimes it's not as obvious as an overall 'poor yield', it could be poor use of inputs, such as seed, fertiliser or pest control, resulting in a high production cost without the improved yield.

As we always say: you need to measure something to improve it. Yield is no different—in fact it’s possibly the most powerful measurement on your farm. One yield data layer can tell a thousand stories and guide multiple actions. Our world is expecting a dramatic population growth by 2050 (10 billion people!) but land and resources aren't growing—it’s for this reason that agricultural growth is relying more on increased productivity and moving away from resource-led growth.

How can you start to evaluate your yield?

1. Yield monitor – we've already spoken a lot about yield monitors and yield mapping. A yield monitor often consists of a sensor installed on the crop elevator on your harvester, measuring crop that passes through. When connected to GNSS, we can see our site-specific yield variability. Today, in precision agriculture, there is no replacement for an on-board yield monitor. Nothing else exists today that will give you the site-specific yield accuracy to tell you what to improve upon.

2. Remote sensing – as technology improves, more solutions are becoming available to measure yield through the use of satellite and drone imagery. The measurements are more about predicting and estimating rather than recording actual yield results, but a major benefit of remote sensing is that it can show potential yield variability. This variability can help you identify 'management zones' within your field which allows you to treat each zone specific to its characteristics, minimising input waste, and giving you a chance to maximise the yield potential of your crop before the season is over.

While we have the technology to monitor and measure yield, this step in the Precision Farming Action Plan is about evaluating your yield to allow you to improve it. Even if your yield data layers aren’t comprehensive, there’s no need to panic. We can begin evaluating yield with anything you may have, for example:

Sampling/estimation method – get out into your field and manually record estimated yields through sampling
Weigh-bridge tickets and recordings
3rd party haulage or merchant recordings
Perhaps you've kept a logbook or excel file with historical yield related data – this is perfect!

As they say, the best prediction of future behaviour is past behaviour. Gather whatever data you may have on your yield and evaluate it. 
The question you need to answer in this step is 'What is my current yield benchmark?'. So, take some time to build-up an understanding of what you have and where you are today in terms of yield performance. Then you can set goals for yield improvement.

If you're not recording or measuring your yield accurately today, our advice is to get started as soon as possible, and the more accurate, the better (an on-board yield monitor is the ultimate tool for the job!).

The next step in the Precision Farming Action plan is to identify which software to use.