Fall harvest tips

By John Fulton (FABE Associate Professor) and Elizabeth Hawkins (Extension Specialist)

Fall harvest is here and is one of the more exciting times of the year on the farm. Spending time sitting in the combine cab or delivering grain can be fun. However, harvest also brings about the opportunity to collect yield and other data from fields that can be valuable when evaluating individual fields for the year. Today, there is a lot of data collected throughout the growing season that can be beneficial as one evaluates each field and the impactful variables on yield and profit.

We would all like to see over 300 bushels of corn and 80 bushels per acre of soybeans consistently displayed on the yield monitor across an entire field. This year that will not happen as yield variability within and between fields is likely to be quite high for the 2020 harvest. However, to work towards reaching yield and profit goals, it is important to collect data that is beneficial for the farm operation to use during post-harvest evaluation.

In many cases, mobile APPs allow the combine operator and/or farm manager to begin evaluating crop performance prior to harvest. They also make it possible to use the time in the combine seat to verify and understand what impacted yield. Important data layers to consider include:

  1. As-planted maps
  2. As-applied maps for fertilizer and other inputs
  3. Remote sensed imagery, if available to the farm
  4. Soil and elevation maps
  5. Scouting notes.

Review what data you have available to begin noting yield limiting factors and note areas within fields to take a closer look at during harvest. Remote sensed imagery from late July or August works well for understanding expected yield variability before harvesting a field. We use a couple of APPs and drop pins before harvest to help with note taking. The figure illustrates one of our eFields studies where scouting was conducted and data were collected during the growing season. We are able to use the split screen function within the APP to have these maps visible during harvest.

Once harvest is here, it is easy to watch and take notes from the combine cab. Variables such as weed pressure, water damage, compaction from prior machine passes, and crop lodging can be noted. Taking pictures is an easy way to document what you are seeing in the field and can provide good information to review after harvest. The goal is to learn and each field can provide valuable intel for review and possibly insights into future production decisions within the operation.

Any fall harvest tips need to also include proper management of yield monitor technology. Making sure the yield monitor sensors and wiring harnesses are in good shape is essential along with calibrating the yield monitor. During harvest 2020, proper yield monitor calibration will be essential since yield variability across fields will be high. Yield monitor calibration ensures the collection of accurate yield estimates which is important to:

  • Create quality yield maps
  • Create accurate prescriptions (Rx’s) maps, and
  • Proper assessment of management risks, understand profitability across fields, and efficient allocation of inputs.

A few tips for harvest:

  1. Prior to harvest:
    1. Backup yield monitor data from the most recent harvest and make sure to save the data in your farm office computer or cloud storage provider.
    1. Make sure all your technology including in-cab display, GPS/GNSS receiver and yield monitor sensors (flow and moisture) are up-to-date on their firmware.
    1. For those that have apps, make sure data has been synced and available for a field and pulled up in the cab.
  2. During harvest:
    1. Make sure to perform yield monitor calibration per manufacturer’s recommendations. Most yield monitors today require multi-point calibration procedures. Calibrating from very low flow to high flow will ensure accurate yield estimates.
    1. At minimum, calibrate for individual crops. For corn, perform both a low (<20%) and high (20% or higher) moisture calibration, if running fields with high versus low moisture.
    1. The OSU Digital Ag team provides detailed tips and recommendations in the publication “Tips for Calibrating Grain Yield Monitors — Maximizing Value of Your Yield Data.” You can search for it online or use this URL: https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/anr-8 .

While harvest can be an enjoyable time of year, take the opportunity this fall to collect information that can be used to evaluate and improve the operation. For more information on calibrating yield monitors, check out the Ohio State Precision Ag website at https://digitalag.osu.edu/precision-ag.

John Fulton is an Associate Professor and Elizabeth Hawkins is an Ohio State University Extension Field Specialist, Agronomic Systems. This column is provided by the OSU Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, OSU Extension, Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center, and the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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