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After the harvest issues in 2018, planting issues of 2019, and the heavy rains in mid-May of 2020, data software and collection might be on the back burner of important things on your operation. Farmers have been so focused on getting a crop in or out of the field that, when the monitor beeps or acts up, the reaction for most is to ignore it and keep on going. Not to mention prices have been volatile, making breakevens tight and preventing farmers from upgrading their systems.

Why, then, is data collection still something to focus on?

At Soil Health Partnership (SHP), we believe quality information is critical to farmer success. For example, in order to truly understand the yield potential and fertilizer efficiency for every grower in our program, we look at planting dates, fertilizer rates, and population counts (among many other things), and tie that information to harvest data – which gives us a more complete picture of farming practices for the year in that SHP trial.

Data collection allows us to report back to the grower the best information possible. In return, that information helps the farmer decide what to do or not do in the years to come. Our data and reports are only as good as the data we receive – proving that good data collection is pivotal for you and SHP.

Here’s another example of just one of the many reasons information gathering can be useful:

Let’s say your crop was planted in a timely manner, was open and growing – and then heavy rains came through and washed out 5-10% of the field. If you were collecting good data, this would show up on a harvest map come that fall. Because you’re able to take this map to your landlord and show them the problem spots in the field, you can help the landowner understand the value of tile drainage, and how the return on investment (ROI) of tiling could quickly increase both their income and the value of that piece of ground.

Another interesting takeaway from good data is the ability to look more closely at areas that struggle to be profitable. Wet holes, fence rows and tree lines are places that drainage and conservation farming practices will not help. These areas might be prime candidates for NRCS programs, which ensure an income while setting back acres that are costing you money year-in and year-out. When you use this data and look at it from an ROI point-of-view, it can help you make decisions that can increase your bottom line and decrease your workload.

I encourage you to research and look into ways to track and collect data on your operation. There are many different companies out there; I recommend finding a local company with great service to work with. With so many products available, service and reliability are my top two priorities. From there, learn the software and find ways to utilize the data received, both on and off the farm. As with any software, keep up-to-date with everything, as companies are constantly upgrading systems to help justify and simplify things annually for their growers.

Alex Fiock
Alex Fiock
Alex Fiock is a Field Manager for Soil Health Partnership covering northern Indiana and Ohio. He also oversees farm economics work for SHP.