Digging In

Calibrating Yield Monitors for Accurate Data

Calibrating Yield Monitors for Accurate Data

By Keith Byerly on Thursday, 10 October, 2019

Harvest is an exciting and extremely busy time of year. There is no other season when you have more wheels in motion than there are right now. And the preparation that has gone into this season is nothing short of spectacular. From maintenance on combine heads to rebuilding auger flightings, there seems to be no shortage of tasks to complete. Yet prior to heading out to the field, there is one piece of hardware that often gets overlooked, especially considering that is used on every pass of every field all season long.

There are few things closer to you while you are in the seat of the combine than the yield monitor. While we often overlook the most obvious things, we cannot assume harvest equipment works the same way it did last harvest season. Yield monitors are part of a complex system of machine pieces that differ in their tolerances and accuracy throughout the course of a season, depending on the wear and tear of the combine. Have you checked on the wear pieces of the combine’s yield monitor system?  Problems like the elevator chain on the combine stretching can affect the way that grain hits the impact plate of the yield monitor, meaning that yields might not be measured accurately. Parts themselves cannot be overlooked, such as the wear of the impact plate, wear on portions of the moisture sensor, and the deflector plates, all which need to be checked regularly.

We also need to acknowledge that the growing season itself can alter how the yield monitor performs. A system that was calibrated for high test weight dry corn may not perform with the same accuracy if moisture or test weight varies significantly this year. 

As your combine or yield monitor manufacturer releases software updates, it is important to realize that updates can, and do cause changes in the calibration process. The way you calibrated a couple of years ago may not be the same calibration method that should be used this season. It is important to spend a couple of minutes looking at software release notes, or at the very least asking the technician that installed the software upgrade about any potential changes that will affect you going forward.

When analyzing farm management, the first thing agronomists look at is the yield data that corresponds with what is going on in the field. Having clean, accurate yield data is essential to making the best management decisions for your farm. 

The data collected this year plays a huge role in your decision-making process. Knowing and following your procedures for calibrations is key to securing the most accurate calibration. It is important to know what your monitor wants. Different manufacturers prefer different things. Does your equipment want a single calibration load weighed at maximum flow, or several loads at different flows that create a calibration curve to look at different numbers?

There will never be another opportunity to get an accurate foot by foot, row by row map of the weather conditions, the inputs and the hybrid and varieties you decided on this season. There are no second chances in getting harvest and yield data on your field. It is important to take the time to get the monitor prepared, and the calibration process right for the sake of your data.