Importance and Value of Data
By Kurtis Shipp
Today when we think of Precision Farming we think about AutoTrac and Swath Control. Although these are pertinent examples of great Precision Farming technology that helps farmers become more profitable, there is another side to Precision Farming that is just as important and can save a producer just as much money but is not quite as tangible. I’m talking about data. Everything a farmer does today generates data collected by his precision farming display. Yield maps, seeding rates, variety information, weather conditions, tank mixes, and machine utilization. The data the display is collecting is more important and more valuable than even AutoTrac or Swath Control. Why is this data so important and how can they utilize this data?
Farmers use this data in many ways but I will provide examples of some of the more common ways. The first type of data that comes to mind is yield mapping. You may ask, “Why is a farmer concerned about looking at that pretty colored map?” Farmers use yield maps to help them make better decisions for their farm for the future. How much of difference will irrigation or tile make if they are installed in a field? Yield maps help put dollar figure on that question. If you have diseases or weeds you can look at those areas of the fields and determine how much yield was lost compared to unaffected areas of the field. Conversely if you did apply a fungicide or insecticide did it really provide you a return on your investment? If you had multiple varieties across your farm the display can keep track of all the yield differences as well. Yield maps can also be used to create management zones within a field to create soil sampling zones for different yield capabilities. This data can also be used for fertilizer application. If you have areas in your field yielding 200bu and areas only yielding 100bu and you fertilize for 150bu average across the whole field you are starving your good areas and over applying unneeded fertilizer in your poorer areas. Why would you field you are starving your good areas and overaaplying unneeded fetilzer in your poorer areas.tilze for 150bu want to limit your potential applying a 150bu rate for the whole field?
Another area I see growing for data collection is field record documentation. As concern continues to grow for our water and air quality farmers are, and will be, required to keep better records on when, how, and where products were applied. Precision Farming products help meet that need and automatically assign time and GPS stamps to information to give highly accurate records for producers. Precision tools allow you to keep track of what crops and varieties were planted where and at what rates for future reference. There are even apps for phones and tablets that allow you to pull all of this information up, even in the field. These same apps can also be used as scouting tools for diseases and insects.
Telematics is becoming a powerful tool as today’s machines will collect data and upload it to a website for a farm manager to view. Power utilization, machine settings, and idle time are all great information for managers to use to make better buying decisions for their equipment. Some managers are surprised to see that a tractor may be idling more than 50% of the time when performing a task such as pulling a grain cart. That 50% idle time is money wasted because that machine is not performing a task to generate revenue for the operation.
In summary today’s precision farming tools allow producers to make much smarter decisions on their farm to help them become more profitable and efficient. Farming is a business and businesses need to make a profit. The data collected by precision farming products is solely used to help make better, more informed, more profitable decisions for an operation.
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