As the use of precision agriculture continues to increase across the US, it is more and more important to ensure that all equipment is prepped, calibrated, and ready for a successful harvest. One of the more common uses of precision agriculture comes in the form of yield mapping. Yield maps not only help growers understand end-of-year performance within fields, but also can be used to characterize in-field variation. Information about this variation is often used by service providers to deliver prescriptions, recommendations, or other information back to the farmer. Because yield maps continue to be an important data layer to learn from and help drive changes or decisions at a field level, proper management of the yield monitor in 2016 is key in order to generate accurate and reliable yield data. Grain moisture and test weight, along with grain flow through the combine, will vary within passes and across the field. Therefore, the flow and moisture sensors on combines must be calibrated to these expected conditions in order to log accurate data. The following best practice guidelines provide essential pre-harvest and harvest yield monitor tips:
- Be sure to update firmware and/or software for the yield monitoring systems. If necessary, contact your equipment or technology service provider about available firmware updates and where they can be downloaded.
Most yield monitors use a mass flow sensor at the top of the clean grain elevator. Due to the grain impact, the plate will wear to the point of developing a hole if it isn't replaced soon enough. The wear that occurs changes the reading from the mass flow sensor. Be sure to replace the plate if wear is evident. Don’t neglect to recalibrate after replacing yield monitor components. This recalibration is necessary to ensure accuracy of the yield monitor.
- A more simple explanation is that a worn impact plate can result in an incorrect yield reading on your display. It is important to not overlook the yield mapping system as a worn component will throw off yield readings.
- Update and/or configure DGPS. Software related to auto-steer, yield monitors and other GPS-based systems requires separate attention. Licenses must be renewed. Calibrations and parameters must be updated or confirmed—especially if the display screen in the combine cab was used for planting or spraying earlier in the year. It’s necessary to meticulously switch every setting and value, from machine dimensions to type of crop and operation, so they are relevant to harvest operations.
- Check auto-steer operations and that previously used AB/guidance lines are available within the display. Remember, you may have to adjust sensitivity settings.
It is also important to calibrate yield monitors for every crop, each season to ensure that all data being collected is as accurate as possible. The yield monitor needs to “be taught” how to convert the readings from the mass flow sensor into yield; therefore, it is necessary to show the yield monitor the range of yield conditions it will encounter throughout the season.
- It is wise to periodically check the calibration throughout the season to be sure the data being collected is still accurate.
Remember to recalibrate if harvest conditions change. For example, if:
- Yield monitor components are replaced or adjusted.
- Grain moistures increase or decrease by over 6% to 8%.
- After a rain shower but still dry enough to harvest.
- The use of grain carts to calibrate yield monitors can be acceptable as long as it weighs accurately compared to certified scales. One should make sure the weigh wagon is on level ground (<2% slope) and stationary for a few seconds before documenting the weight.
- Bring along your field notes so you can review them during harvest as crop conditions vary or issues are observed.
- While harvest is a busy time, taking notes and images during harvest (especially if conducting on-farm research) can be valuable data when finally sitting down for post-harvest analysis and summary. We all forget, so notes and images can help document important information!
For more information on calibrating yield monitors, please check out the Ohio State Precision Ag website http://fabe.osu.edu/programs/precision-ag/other where a variety of yield calibration quick guides are available.