Gearing Up for Fall Data Harvest

Gary Suess, Precision Ag Specialist (507) 273-7043

As the end of summer is quickly closing in, our focus is also quickly changing to the upcoming harvest season. At this point in the year, most of the growing season is behind you. Now that the end is in sight, it’s time to see the payoff for all your hard work and planning. When the corn and soybean crops are ready to be harvested, your yield monitoring equipment needs to be ready, too. Don’t wait until you’re ready to go to the field to make sure your yield monitor and its components are working properly.  This includes yield monitors, sensors and wiring. Here’s a quick checklist to help you get the most out of this harvest data this year.

Check the Mechanical Components of Your Monitors
Your yield monitors actually have mechanical components that can become worn or broken. During your pre-harvest combine check on your combine, check the four main components of the Yield Monitor:

  1. Yield Sensor– check for wear and/or alignment. Each harvest increases the wear on your yield sensor. Also, it is very important to check the tension of the clean grain elevator chain. Look for worn paddles, loose links, and worn sprockets. All these can cause erroneous data resulting from the way the grain impacts the yield sensor at the top of the elevator.
  2. Moisture Sensor– Make sure there is not any debris from previous crops obstructing the moisture sensor channel. If there is, clean the sensor before starting. Also, if you are harvesting in high moisture corn, some of the plant resins can obscure the moisture readings. So just be aware you may want to check the sensor during the first few days of harvest.
  3. Display– Follow the pre-season checklist provided by your yield monitor manufacturer. This can be found in the manual or at the manufacturer’s website. Make sure you have the most current firmware installed in your yield monitor. Verify Grower, Farm and Field structure is set up, and Variety Tracking information is set up and turned on.
  4. Receiver– Check for solid GPS connections and strong reception signal when outside with a clear view of the sky.

Calibrate Your Monitor
Harvest is your one chance to see what worked this year and what didn’t. So it’s worth investing the time to calibrate your yield monitor to make sure you can trust the data coming off the field. Calibration is the most important step in collecting accurate data. The following are some important items to address to ensure the most consistent calibration for your yields.

  1. Mass Flow and Moisture Sensor calibration: It is best to calibrate these sensors at the beginning of the season for each crop and 2-4 more times during the season as conditions and moistures change.
  2. Vibration calibration: Make sure that before you get started harvesting you do a vibration calibration. This will correct the system for the vibration of the machine, especially when the header is engaged. It is recommended this be done each time you change the header on the combine.
  3. Header height sensor calibration: This is an important sensor to check and make sure it is working correctly. This sensor engages and disengages the logging mechanism for the yield monitor. Incorrect acreage leads to incorrect yield estimates.
  4. Distance calibration: It is a good idea to recalibrate or verify it is working correctly. Again, incorrect acreage estimates lead to incorrect yield estimates.

One thing to consider, as the season progresses and the crops get dryer it is important to do a calibration check periodically. Changes in grain test weight and moisture will affect the accuracy of the data.

Save Your Data!
If you don’t save your data, it can’t help you with next year’s crop. Verify often that your yield data is being captured and saved often.

  1. Verify your data is saving correctly. During harvest, check after your first fields to verify your monitor is mapping correctly. This will give you comfort knowing that the rest of the season you have set up your Yield Monitor correctly to capture good yield data.
  2. Save and back up your data. Throughout the season periodically backup your raw data. It’s highly recommended to back up your data weekly to a computer or cloud system. This can be as simple as copying the files to your computer. Your data can help you substantially increase your profitability next season through better decisions, its well worth it to take a little extra time to make sure you data is safe.
  3. If you use cloud based services, verify they are capturing data by logging in to your account. It is still good practice to log in frequently and make sure each days fields have made it to the cloud and if not to copy the data on your monitors just as if you didn’t have cloud systems.

Harvest time is always an exciting time of year. It’s always nice to see how improvements in your farming operation can increase your efficiency and profitability.  Yield monitors are excellent tools to help show you these successes.  If you are using a yield monitor with your harvest equipment, take some time before you hit the fields this fall to make sure they are operating correctly and accurately to give you the opportunity to get the most insights from your harvest data.

Thank you for your business this past year – we very much appreciate the opportunity to work with you on your farms.  Even though fall harvest is an extremely busy time of year, I hope you have some chances to enjoy the season. Finally, I wish all of you have a safe fall.


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