Information Management to Maximize Your Yields

What Type of Data Should You Collect for Analytics?

Do you ever feel like you are collecting loads of data but it’s just sitting on a flash drive or in a cloud storage system doing little more than building a pretty map? Organizing and analyzing that data can seem like such a daunting task. Before you even get to organizing the data you need to figure out what data is worth collecting. SciMax can help you prioritize your data and use farm analytics to make more confident decisions using your data.

data storage

Farming includes many hours planning what seed to buy, how much fertilizer to apply, what rates to apply, and above all, you are playing a never-ending game of risk with mother nature. What if all that planning was paired with the confidence that you are making the best decisions with the right products and the right rates for your fields?

Throughout the season, when you are executing your meticulously thought out plan, you are often collecting valuable data that can be used to make decisions for next year. Layers and layers of data that can be used and analyzed. The piece that many growers miss is analysis–proving if your plan did or didn’t work. What type of data are we talking about?

Many base layers for analysis come from publicly available sources, such as the USDA soils database.  It’s a great start, but we move beyond the basics. Historical yield is a great way to visualize the performance of your field over the years. What has your equipment or the applicators’ equipment been tracking? Have you been soil sampling? What does your crop protection plan look like?

Use this list for a starting point of your valuable data:

  • Soil Samples
  • As-Applied (planting, nutrient and crop protection) Data
  • Harvest Files
  • Input Cost Data

Whether your data is stored in a cloud storage service, on your monitor, in your computer, or sitting with your local soil sampler, we make collecting your data easy and help you track it down. Once we have the data, our agronomic advisors analyze all the data layers to guide you to make confident decisions to maximize your profit. Without having to allocate extra time, you can take advantage of the many reports, analytics and visualizations that will help you take a deeper look at your operation.

breakeven cost per bushel price of corn

When your data is organized in our system it is ready to be analyzed and your reports are activated. An advisor will help you prioritize what aspects of your operation you should focus on. Depending on your operational goals, the data will help show you how you can achieve them. We know each operation is different and we work with you as a part of your team to help you reach the goals you’ve set. What sets us apart is that we are unbiased.  We offer a different perspective–it’s your bottom line we’re worried about. We help you find your breakeven cost per bushel and can also help you find your yield efficiency score so you can profit.

yield profitability and yield efficiency

 

Utilizing the correct data can help you determine if all those stressful choices were profitable and most importantly, if the data is telling you to change some practices to help achieve your goals. We understand that your goals and how you manage your operation are also constantly evolving.

dataview web

 

You can take all the data you’ve gathered and combine it with your economics to help you visualize where in your fields your decisions are profiting or not. By choosing to manage all of your data and allowing a SciMax Solutions Specialist to stand by your side, you have the tools to make confident, agronomic and economic decisions that best fit your field, your operation and your future.

 

*Originally posted by Premier Crop Systems*

Managing Your Fields for Success

By Jason Cabbage

As an avid baseball fan, I am yearning for the pre COVID-19 days of turning on a Royals game basically every night and watching the boys of summer duke it out. Every so often I don’t get the chance to actually watch or listen to the game and the next morning I am forced to look up the box score. If you’re like me and grew up looking for box scores in the paper (now we have the internet) you understand that it can be important information, but they fail to give you the entire picture of the game.

For those of you too young to remember, picture this, you missed the big game and you scramble on your phone to see how your favorite player faired against the All-Star pitcher last night. You find that he went 1-4 with 0 runs and 1 RBI, at first glance you would think to yourself that it wasn’t a bad night but also nothing spectacular either. If you were able to watch the you would’ve known that your favorite ball player’s one hit was a single that advanced two runners into scoring position, both scoring later in the inning to tie the game. Also, hidden in the box score was the fact that later in the game your favorite player laid down a sacrifice bunt that scored a run to give your team the go ahead and eventual winning run. When you fully understand what happened that completely changes your perception of the game right? Your favorite player was the hero of the night!

A similar situation can happen in your fields. If we get to the end of the season and all we are looking for is what the field average was then we are missing the bigger picture. Chances are there were portions of the field that were 300+ bu and others that were 100 bu or less. Why? What can I do to capitalize on the high yielding acres? What can I do to minimize or even eliminate the impact on the low yielding acres? That’s where Premier Crop Systems and your Agronomic Information Adviser are here to help you walk though these complicated issues and see the whole picture.

When I start to analyze a field I am unfamiliar with, I walk into the process with the understanding that A) no two fields are alike and B) there WILL be variations across the field. Yield limiting variables can be one or several of hundreds of different factors, but it’s important to know that they exist and we need to start trying to understand what they are. Once I identify the areas in the field that have historically followed a yield pattern, I want to place them in zones so we can start to treat them appropriately. My A zone is my Cy Young winning pitcher, it traditionally delivers fantastic results and is proven to give me a great ROI on my input dollars. We, at PCS, understand that the grower has a limited budget to get a crop into this field and we want to stretch those input dollars as far as we can in a proven, data driven approach, to help the grower be as profitable as possible. So, back to my baseball analogy, if I am the General Manager of the Royals and I have a proven (former CY Young) that is still on the top of his game, I do not have a problem paying for the productivity because of what I am receiving in return. The same should be said for A Zones, we want to push them because we have proven with data that they give us a high ROI.

B Zones are what we refer to as the “average acre” in the field, they do a good job, they are an everyday player, and can be productive but they won’t be going the All-Star Game anytime soon. Now, we ask ourselves can we turn the B Zone into and All-Star A Zone? The answer is sometimes, with proper fertilization, proper seed placement and rate, or one of any other factors that had been ignored before, but for the majority of these acres the answer will probably be that it doesn’t financially make sense to try to push them that far.

Now for the interesting part of the lineup, the C Zone. This is a guy on our roster that might be on the backside of his career. He for years was a part of a good team and, for that, had built a contract that was by far outpacing his production. Generally, we view C Zones as the poorer acre on the field and there isn’t much we can do about it. C Zones more than likely will never be an A Zone or probably even a B Zone. They bog down the payroll (input cost) and they might even have a negative ROI. So why are we putting a bunch of precious input dollars on our C Zones? We need to take a hard look here and identify what dollars we can pull out and position somewhere else that makes us more profitable while still working to maintain whatever production we can.

We also have the ability to identify other zones i.e. sandy spots, areas that are prone to being water logged, and just generally bad ground. For now, we will send those zones down to the minors and bring them back as needed.

As you can see, even the best fields (or teams) have a variety of All-Stars and simply role players. They are all important at the end of the year but they need to be managed differently to get the most out of them to maximize success. Treating the field the same across all the acres means you’re not maximizing the productivity and ROI of your All-Star acre and giving too much of the payroll to the role player and thus hurting your overall profitability.

To learn more, contact your SciMax Solutions Specialist.

How Farm Analytics Help You Become More Efficient

By Rodney Legleiter

In tough years, it’s even more important to manage your inputs and to maximize profit. Way too often, I hear people want to maximize yield and, obviously, the more bushels you have the more you have to sell. But if it costs you too much to raise, you might not have increased your profitability by increasing yield. – Eric Marchand, Britt, IA

Eric Marchand farms southeast of Britt, IA. He started farming with his dad in 1997 and has slowly taken over and grown the operation.

As a SciMax Solutions® Specialist I get to help growers utilize their data to help them maximize efficiency and profits. Together with SciMax, I’ve been working with Eric Marchand since 2013, utilizing variable rate seeding, variable rate nitrogen and farm analytics. We took some time to ask Eric questions about the benefits of SciMax.

RODNEY LEGLEITER: How do farm analytics help your farm become more cost efficient?

ERIC MARCHAND: Well, when you can take your farm and break it down, you can see where the profit robbing issues are. You can try to correct them or combat them with different hybrids, different nitrogen rates, different fertilizer responses and variable rate planting in certain areas. SciMax compiles the data from other growers in the area, then helps find different practices that are working versus what isn’t working so you can not only see your farm operation but see what others are doing anonymously. This way you can manage each acre slightly different to maximize your profitability on each acre.

RODNEY LEGLEITER: How do you manage input costs to protect profits?

ERIC MARCHAND: It’s about having the right population of the right hybrid on each acre in each area of the field, as well as optimizing your nitrogen rate, your micronutrients, and even your P and K rates. Going clear back to the basic as-planted map and overlaying that with your yield mapping, you can determine your profitability by field, acre and hybrid.

RODNEY LEGLEITER: Talking about variable rate, you’ve been variable rate seeding for quite a few years. Tell us the timeline and history of how you’ve been using variable rate prescriptions and seeding.

ERIC MARCHAND: In 2013 I purchased hydraulic drives on my planter and knew I could variable rate. Since I had the technology available to me, I tried a little bit of corn in a field or two each year. I broadened that into trying a field of beans based on pH and adding four more corn acres. It went to having a prescription written for every acre of corn and beans that I plan to plant each year. I believe variable rate really pays off in optimizing your population. I wouldn’t say you’re cutting back in the less productive acres. You are cutting back your population, but you’re optimizing your population more than just cutting it back to save seed. Cutting back saves the seed cost, but it also allows the best population on that acre to produce the best yield. Saving input cost, as well as increased yield for return, is a double-ended benefit.

RODNEY LEGLEITER: There’s a misconception that you’re going to cut your seeding costs drastically, but that’s really not the case when you’ve pretty much got the same average rate across the field.

ERIC MARCHAND: You’re right. If you decide the ballpark of what you would flat rate that field by seed, once your prescriptions are written, most of the time you’re within one bag. So you’re not cutting back seed. You’re taking it out of the less productive areas and putting it in the higher producing areas. You’re trying to be a little more offensive in the good ground and a little bit more conservative to optimize the situation in the less productive ground.

RODNEY LEGLEITER: Throughout the years you’ve tried the SciMax Nitrogen program with variable rate nitrogen and you’ve been able to reduce your rates by anywhere from 25 to 30 percent over those acres and still maintain, if not, increase yield. What are the different things you’ve tried with the SciMax Nitrogen® program?

ERIC MARCHAND: Yes, definitely. With the variable rate single application or dual applications, you can cut your rates back. I used Learning Blocks to test different rates to see if there was a yield drag where the nitrogen rates were cut. To start, I used Learning Blocks as a convincing agent, especially with variable rate nitrogen. For too long, guys have thought if I pump more nitrogen out there, I’ll get more yield. And then, you see some of the data that SciMax has shown with reducing nitrogen rates, and it really challenges the comfort zone of the ‘old-time-thinking’ and wanting to dump more nitrogen. We wanted to see for ourselves, so we put a Learning Block out that used my old nitrogen rate and a higher rate. When we got our yield maps and lay over the nitrogen rate learning block we saw little to no change, even sometimes a negative response on the higher rate. It builds confidence to make the decision for the right rates next year. And it’s not only nitrogen, you can start analyzing nitrogen rates to planting population to micronutrients and fungicides. Instead of doing strips where your ground might vary across a field, do a section where you see if what you’re doing really matters. You can start to ask the questions, ‘What if I went and did that? Would I have had the same results anyway? Did I just get a banner year and get a good yield out there? Or did I do the right thing by pushing the population or by cutting the population back?’ The Learning Block tells you changing this did work or, in some instances, maybe changing this didn’t work. But it’s not a test plot from a hundred miles away. It’s your Learning Block right there in your own field.

RODNEY LEGLEITER: The farm economy is being impacted, more so in some areas than others. Tell me a little bit about your thought of the farm economy and what you’re seeing, how it’s affecting you and what keeps you up at night, as far as the current farming economy?

ERIC MARCHAND: In tough economic years, it’s even more important to manage your inputs and to maximize profit. Way too often, I hear people want to maximize yield and, obviously, the more bushels you have, the more you have to sell. But if they cost you too much to raise, you might not have increased your profitability by increasing yield. I’m proud to say I have a good partner in SciMax by managing input costs and maximizing profitability.

How to Use Management Zones

by Kevin Kruize – Premier Crop Systems

Management Zones are defined as, similar agronomic areas in a field that are created from a combination of layers. These similar agronomic areas can be used to manage inputs and data to analyze better efficiency and return on investment to your farm. At Premier Crop we offer a user-friendly way to bring these layers together in one platform and help you make confident decisions from your data.

Create Zones – How you create zones depends how you intend to use the zone once it is created. There are many valuable data layers, the more layers and confidence you have, the better the zone and more useful it will be. If you are new to data management and have not collected many data layers, a few simple layers such as soil test attributes, one to two years of yield data, and even a NDVI image can get you started. As you build data layers such as yield and soil fertility you can start defining management zones to be more accurate. The more history you have the more refined the management zone will be to give you more confidence for variable rate prescriptions such as planting and fertility.

Using Management Zones – Management zones have been the catalyst in creating yield synergy across hundreds of thousands of acres in our system. Yield synergy is defined as applying the right rate of multiple products to achieve a higher return in specific parts of the field, rather than applying more or less of one product at one rate on a whole field. Developing the right rates is calculated by incorporating your management zones into all of your prescriptions. Each zone will have a specific calculated rate per product to be applied based on its productivity. If we know that you have a high yield environment, we have proven with our replicated randomized trials, called Enhanced Learning Blocks, that we can increase fertility, population, and crop protection products in these areas to push that environment to a higher yield. We also have experienced in lower producing zones, not only a savings on input costs, but also yield increases due to less plant crowding with lower plant population and better use of fertility management. Now that is a huge win for your bottom line!

Analysis: This is where Premier Crop is different because we analyze how your management zones and prescriptions performed. We prove if the products, population and rates were profitable. Management zones can have little value if you don’t have a good platform to analyze them. Once you build your zones, Premier Crop can take a deep dive to understand how each zone is delivering value across your field and your farm. Our management zone reports can identify what variables are affecting yield and profitability, we prove if the rates worked. Premier Crop generates an easy-to-read report that shows what you did in each zone agronomically and how yield responded. We then break it down to see what the top correlating factors are in each zone to identify what we can continue to improve. Utilizing Premier Crop’s cost/bu analysis per zone helps you understand your field’s true ROI and prove that by increasing or decreasing input dollars in the right areas of the field can make you more margin.

Management Zones can provide great value to your operation when created, implemented and analyzed correctly. Premier Crop Systems platform is built to meet any grower where they are to create management zones using their data. Whether you have years of data, or a 60-year-old soil map, we can help you be more profitable. Don’t get stuck using a system that can’t provide analysis of its work or prove your results.

SciMax Solutions is proud to be your partner on your path to higher profits. Contact us today!

Every Acre is Unique

By Dan Frieberg

Foundations of agronomy and geography are the starting place for data-driven decisions.

I believe data driven decisions will power change in every aspect of crop production. Your data can be a valuable business asset that leads to greater profitability.

There are some key foundational principles in using data to drive decisions in crop production that are worth reviewing. The first is centered on uniqueness. Just as we each have unique fingerprints and DNA, each part of every field is unique.

Much of your data that can be used for making better decisions is being collected with a device connected to a GPS receiver. Most of the software that reads the data files is a version of a geographic information system (GIS). The difference between this software and a database you might use for your livestock operation or some other aspect of your farming operation is the first word – geographic. Your data is stored tied to a unique geographic place in the world. While there are other areas that are very similar, none of those are exactly the same.

Why does a product work so well in one place, but not at all in another? Why does the ideal rate of an input change within parts of your field? Many times, the answer is as simple as “geography matters”! If you treat all you acres as if they are same, you’ll lose out on efficiencies and profits.

The second principle to consider is best illustrated by the rain barrel. The rain barrel, with staves of varying heights, is a visual way to illustrate the real-world reality of what limits yield in any one place within a field changes. Nitrogen is limiting in the southeast corner of the field but not the center. Population is limiting one place but not another.

The rain barrel concept is easy to talk about but challenging to put into practice. Our goal is to maximize return on every dollar invested. Ideally, we are adjusting every input to not only match the uniqueness of the geography but also to match the combination and limitations of the other staves in the rain barrel in each part of the field.

The irony of our leap forward in planter technology is that, in many cases, we now have more uniformly-spaced, nutrient-deficient plants that anyone would ever have imagined. A one-time investment in upgrading planters has been easier to justify than the continuous re-investment in fertility, especially on rented acres.

An appreciation for these two principles will lead you to collect as much geo-referenced data as possible.

Are High Yields More Profitable?

By Dan Frieberg
Premier Crop Systems

Do you ever consider why there is so much focus on producing ever higher yields per acre? What’s your reason why you focus on yields? Is it a feeling of social responsibility to help feed the world? Is it from a sense of pride? Winning a contest? Are you wired to achieve – a constant quest to do better? Is it a leftover from your school days or parenting – always wanting to have a great report card?

For more growers that we work with, I don’t believe any of those motivations are what’s most important. They’re generally pretty quiet about their high yields. For them, it comes down to a simple business reality – high yields generally drive the most profit.

Business and economics professors have ingrained in us that some business costs are fixed and some are variable. Fixed costs are the same regardless of unites produced. Sometimes, they are referred to as “sunk” costs because it’s what you sink into the business just to be in business. In crop production, we frequently consider our investment in land – either through ownership or rent – as our largest fixed cost.

Owner the decades, we’ve replaced labor with larger equipment that has helped fuel dramatic productivity gains. But that increasing investment has increased the fixed cost of crop production in many operations.

Farm economics professors will frequently list nutrients, seed, crop protection products, fuel and hired labor as variable costs. But for most operations, that’s not an accurate characterization. What percent of seed cost is truly variable? What percent of herbicide costs is truly variable? What percent of nitrogen cost is truly variable?

My point is that everyone plants hybrid corn – so the real seed cost that is variable is the portion above the cost of a high-yield, non-traited hybrid. In corn production, most growers are going to apply a minimum of 100 lbs. of N per acre in some manner. The portion of your nitrogen investment that is truly variable might be the final 50 -75 lbs/ac. Choosing the cheapest herbicide program can be an example of “playing with fire” (boosting weed resistance for higher future costs). So is your herbicide program really a variable cost?

Lenders can be quick to encourage cost-cutting. But cutting nutrient, plant health and pest management investments can cut yields. In a high fixed-cost business, dividing those fixed costs over more unites of production is usually the path to higher profits.

We frequently lead our customers to spend more input dollars only on the best field zones. That is possible when you can track and record those cost/investment differences like we do, then share a profitability analysis (see graphic above) at the end of the growing season.

In corn and soybean production, you can spend your way poor but you can’t save your way into prosperity. Frequently, the only way to lower your cost per bushel and increase profits is to produce higher yields.

To learn more, contact the Solutions Specialists at SciMax Solutions! 

It’s Time to Scrutinize ROI

By Dan Frieberg
Premier Crop Systems

Increasing return on investment for every input is clearly on the mind of every grower. They are in an economic squeeze, but that doesn’t mean they won’t invest more in crops. It does mean they are scrutinizing every dollar they spend. The current success measure now goes beyond yield increase to include which inputs offer better return on investment.

During Premier Crop’s 20 years in business, one of the most dramatic changes has been the evolution of the biotech seed industry. University of Illinois research shows per-acre seed investments have increased 4 to 5-fold in that time. While yields have increased, seed cost per bushel produced has also increased 4-5 times. Part of the increased cost/bushel has been offset by reduced herbicide and insecticide/acre investments.

But this is not your father’s seed investment! The times and economics associated with managing your seed investment have changed and deserve more attention.

The return on investment for managing your seed investment within fields through variable rate seeding has never been higher. How do you know your ROI on variable rate seeding? For Premier Crop, the answer has always been tying input cost to the as-planted or as-applied fields, adding all input, land, management costs to generate a cost per bushel map for each field.

Why cost/bushel versus a profit map? Our experience is that the first step in a solid grain marketing plan is knowing your cost per bushel of production. Grain marketing in most operations can be a 12-month process and we want to be able to deliver results and analysis as soon as the yield file is processed.

Consider this field’s story:

To learn how to boost your farm’s ROI, contact the experts at SciMax Solutions today! 

The Best Tools to Increase Farm Efficiency

By Mike Manning

Some questions that get asked often about precision ag, and precision tools in general, are “what makes sense for my operation?” or “how do I get started?

The best way to answer these questions is by evaluating your current situation.  How you respond to the following questions should guide you toward your next logical ‘precision ag steps’.

  1. Do you have spatial soil samples (grid or zone) on any of your fields (<4 years old)?
    Are you making variable rate fertilizer applications based on these samples?
  2. Does your combine, or your custom harvester’s combine, have a GPS equipped yield monitor?
  3. Is your planter equipped or capable of variable rate seeding?
  4. How are you evaluating or verifying your current production?
  5. How are you evaluating or verifying the efficacy of your precision ag tools?
  6. How are you evaluating the economic return of your farm? Individual fields?
    “across your entire operation?  Agronomically, and economically?

I consider a good spatial soil sample the foundation of precision ag.  By definition, precision ag is all about site-specific management; measuring, analyzing, and managing field variability.  As mentioned in our previous blog post, Buyer’s Remorse, states the definition of precision is; the quality, condition, or fact of being exact and accurate. What better way to start that with a spatial sample?

Two predominant methods prevail in the spatial soil sample world; grid sampling and zone sampling.  In my experience, I consider the 2.5 acre grid sample the best ‘right-size & high resolution image’ of soil fertility you can collect.  While other grid densities and zone approaches work in different geographies (and can meet your needs in different growing environments…dryland Kansas or dryland Saskatchewan wheat come to mind), the 2.5 acre grid sample offers what I consider the best match of agronomics and economics.  It typically provides the “Goldilocks” scenario of high sample resolution, enabling you to see what’s going on within the field, while being cost effective for the grower.

grid soil sample benefits

grid soil sample benefits at 2.5 acres

Your number one priority with any spatial soil sample is to measure the variability of soil fertility within a field.  Regardless of how uniform a field may appear (table-top flat, same soil type, negligible topography change), universally, soil fertility is variable, ceteris paribus.  More importantly, through your years of farming that ground and perhaps yield monitoring, you know yield is also variable.  By measuring and understanding this variability, you can begin formulating successful variable rate fertility plans (VRT).

Spatial soil sampling and VRT, in and of themselves, may not save you money at the outset.  However, they will make you more efficient in the long run by reallocating the fertilizer dollar where it needs to go within the field.  In almost every flat-rate situation – we over-apply our poor areas and under-apply our best areas. This leads to input waste in the poor areas, and uncaptured yield potential in the best areas.  By adopting a sound VRT approach, and working with a trusted agronomic advisor, we can optimize both our fertilizer spend and our overall yield potential.

variable rate technology benefits and roi

In future articles, we’ll discuss the benefits of variable rate seeding, determining the right seeding rate, yield data, Management Zones, and whole-season systems based approaches, that incorporate all aspects of VRT, VR seeding, in-field trials, and comprehensive yield, agronomic, and economic analyses.

To learn more or to get started today, contact the SciMax Solutions experts at www.scimaxsolutions.com/contact-us

 

The art and science of variable rate seeding

Variable rate seeding could reduce input costs in low productivity areas and increase your yields in high productivity areas.

Yield Leaders Talk Strategy…

BE A STUDENT OF THE CROP, WALK YOUR FIELDS, AND RUN ON-FARM TRIALS.
An all-star cast of high-yield farmers had plenty of advice for growers at the 2020 Commodity Classic Wednesday, but the secret to high yields boils down to excellent agronomic skills. These farmers know what they’re talking about:
  • David Hula of Charles City, Virginia, has the world corn yield record, at 616 bushels per acre
  • Randy Dowdy, Valdosta, Georgia, has the world soybean yield record, at 190 bushels per acre
  • Jena and Levi Ochsner, Sutton, Nebraska, 251 bushels of corn per acre
  • Cory Atley, Cedarville, Ohio, 279.2 bushels of corn per acre

The full article is available here: https://bit.ly/2KzWo5H.

To learn how SciMax Solutions can help you be a student of your crop and develop the right strategy for increased profits, contact our SciMax Solutions Specialists today!