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Measuring Yield-Limiting Field Characteristics with a Yield Monitor

Location: Medstead, Saskatchewan

Combines: New Holland CR9060, CX8080, TR98

Crop Type: Wheat, peas, canola, barley, oats

The Challenge:

Calculating the cost of a field’s yield-limiting characteristics year-on-year.

The Solution:

Measure the dollar-per-acre differences on yield with yield maps. FarmTRX automates yield data correction and the processing of data into agronomy-ready maps.

Why Does it Matter:

To make data-driven decisions that will boost long-term field health, productivity and profitability farmers need usable, granular yield maps.

The Cost of Moisture Variability Year-on-Year

Farm manager Bryn Casson farms in Northern Saskatchewan and deals with significant year-to-year moisture variability across the family farm. In one year, areas of an 180-acre field were too wet, drowning out crops. Yet, in the subsequent dry year, the same previously flooded areas yielded the best.

Casson needed a way to validate and quantify yield loss from field drainage issues long term.

“The big thing was putting a dollar value on what we’re losing to these wet spots every year,” Casson says. “We’ve talked about it for years and years. We know we’re losing money, but how much? A couple $100 bucks or $100,000?”

Supporting Farm Management Decisions with a Yield Monitor

Casson has been running FarmTRX yield monitor’s on the family’s 2,600-acre farm since 2015. His uncle, Perry Casson, a software, GIS, wireless communications and electronics expert, built the prototype FarmTRX system when they needed an inexpensive yield monitor solution for their three 1990s-era combines to participate in a variable-rate fertilizer trial program. The early yield monitor was designed to simply and quickly install on any combine, deploying easy-to-use precision yield-mapping capabilities onto new combines or older combines without a factory system.

Casson relies on yield monitor data and maps as an all-purpose management evaluation tool:

Farmers always have a trial going on, whether it’s intentional or not, like you forgot to turn the boom switch on, so now you can evaluate whether this fungicide is paying for itself. Or, can we drive five miles an hour with the drill or do we need to drive four? You can validate a lot of your trials or your mistakes.

Bryn Casson

In 2020 Casson’s 180 acre home-quarter field was planted into a thriving canola crop. That July, they received eight inches of rain in three days. The low-lying draws in the field flooded out completely, drowning the canola in low areas, though yield improved incrementally with elevation.

The following year Casson planted the same field to barley. That year was extremely dry, with only four inches of rain over the entire growing season. The flooded-out areas that yielded nothing in 2020 produced the highest yields in 2021, while the high, dry elevations in the field were the worst.
Comparing the 2020 and 2021 yield maps validated the differences, showing nearly inverse yields between a wet 2020 and a dry 2021. The results from this field were common across most fields over the 1,850 acres harvested.

Why FarmTRX?

Post-calibration features let farmers focuse on what matters; farming. With the elevator results ticket farmers can post-calibrate their yield data through the Web App so you can always get agronomy-ready yield maps after the fact. As part of the automatic processing into maps, yield data is corrected and normalized to reveal accurate trends in yield, removing unloading points, overlap, headland turns etc.

The result? Yield maps that are accurate and usable to validate farm management decisions.

“Until we had yield maps to actually measure it, we didn’t know how bad specific areas were. Because it’s not zero bushels to 50 bushels. It’s zero bushels, and then 10 bushels and then 20 bushels and then 30 bushels. And it changes over time. I didn’t know, are we better off spending our next dollar on variable rate? Or should we invest int a drainage program? Should that be tile or trenching?

Bryn Casson

Casson relied on his yield maps to validate where the fields were most impacted. In the 180 acre field alone there was approximately $50,000 in potential yield loss during the 2020 flood. A decision to purchase drainage equipment for around $50,000 was easy to make with this knowledge in-hand. By comparing the yield maps from 2020 to 2021, he could pinpoint precisely where and how much each field’s drainage affected their profitability and project this over time.

750 acres, 5 operators, 3 combines and 2 crop types harvested over multiple weeks. 

Yield Maps Help Farmers Do More of What Works for their Fields

The longer he collects FarmTRX yield mapping data, the more Casson can fine-tune his approach to managing the farm’s field variability. Even the farm’s approach to variable rate fertilizer is changing, Casson says. His local agronomy company is now moving away from grid sampling and leaning toward topography and zones. The FarmTRX Trend of Yield map provides an easy jumping off point for selecting areas for representative samples.