Data is a powerful tool in your operation, and we often look at our yield and soil properties as the most valuable. It is important to remember though, the real value of soil health data is not in any one sample. The value is being able to look at the changes over time and applying it to other data sets. Looking at the management, yield and the ancillary pieces help to make inferences about the manner that it changed. This starts with having a complete data set that you have confidence in and begins with taking the time to do things the proper way so you have data you can trust for years to come.
How do you go about tracking better data?
- Knowing and following proper soil sampling procedures is essential to securing accurate data, no matter the agronomy partner or lab you are working with. Knowing what your lab wants for a volume of soil, making sure it is stored and shipped correctly, and submitting the proper information, such as the correct depth of your sample, are key to accuracy. It is ok to change your sampling procedures or even your lab, but it must come with communication. Open communication with your partners insures that everyone understands how important it is to have consistency in what you are testing for and how you go about it when it comes to soil health.
- Working with a trusted team of partners. Improving soil health or any management practice on a farm is a task that can be done all by yourself, but is often more successful with a team of people working together. This team should be assembled by pulling in the best people and information you can find. Information from different sources keeps farmers performing at a high level. Think about the top athletes like LeBron James or Tom Brady. They do not rely on just a single sports medicine doctor to keep them performing at a top level. They have a team of individuals, people that focus on nutrition, regeneration, health, mental health, training, and of course marketing managers that make them successful. Isn’t the same really true of our ag producers?
- Calibrating yield monitors before each harvest season. The data collected each year plays a huge role in your decision-making process. Knowing and following your procedures for yield monitor calibration is key to securing the most accurate calibration.
One of the long term goals of the Soil Health Partnership (SHP) is to have a hand in the creation of decision tools that help growers know the likelihood of success of implementing different practices on their farm is relative to a number of factors that make each operation unique. It is only with the ability to take the data over the long term and make accurate predictions that we can move forward with that goal.
The long-term draw of soil health and working with SHP is to make decisions easier in the future than they are today. If we apply data-driven principles going forward, better management decisions can be made, not just for our economic well being, but also for the health of our soil, and our license to operate for generations to come.