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  • Animal Science
  • Agriculture
  • Field Crops
NMSP puts yield monitor data into action to help farmers assess the productivity of their fields.

When it comes to agricultural research, ensuring that the results make it back to the farmer is important, so they can potentially make adjustments to their practices. The Nutrient Management Spear Program (NMSP) conducts a plethora of on-farm research with this goal in mind. One of their projects — the forage and grain yield monitor data project — aims to help farmers better understand which of their fields are productive and which could use additional support. 

Over 400,000 acres of yield monitor data for corn silage (48%), corn grain (45%) and soybeans (8%) have been processed by NMSP so far. Farmers use yield-monitor systems — devices and software installed on combines and choppers — to measure and record yield as they harvest the crop. 

Once harvest is over, farmers share their yield data with NMSP data analyst Manuel Marcaida III. His team then cleans the datasets, removing erroneous, unreliable data, before generating a farm report with field-based yield data. Once a farm participates for at least three years, the team also generates multi-year reports and yield stability zone maps. 

What are yield stability zone maps?

Yield stability zone maps identify areas in fields that consistently produce high yields over multiple years. Information about the fields is aggregated over three or more years, divided, and color-coded into four zones — green, blue, yellow and red — based on yield performance. Those that are green consistently yield above the farm average; those that are red consistently yield below. Areas that show more variability from year-to-year suggest limited climate resiliency.

Why are yield stability zone maps helpful?

Zone maps are data-driven, visual representations of field productivity. They provide insight into barriers to crop yield and point farmers to areas where a different management approach might be needed. Farmers can use the zone maps to inform crop selection and field management, and to decide whether to focus resources on areas which require the most–improving sustainability, resource allocation, and efficiency.

Data and models can be powerful, but considering the experience and wisdom of farmers is also crucial in understanding what’s going on in their fields.

How do farmers respond to seeing these maps?

“We get high-fives and handshakes from farmers when they see the maps!” Marcaida said. “They are the best validators of these yield stability zone maps. Farmers can help us explain why a certain area is red and why some are green. It’s a perfect illustration of how collaboration is key: data and models can be powerful, but considering the experience and wisdom of farmers is also crucial in understanding what’s going on in their fields.”

I’m a farmer interested in participating. What do I need to do to get my data to NMSP?

If a farm is using MyJohnDeere Operations Center, the most common way of sharing data is by adding NMSP to the account. However, the team can also process information from other platforms like Climate Field View, AgLeader, or CLAAS. Transferring data can also be done using a cloud-based data-sharing approach, such as Box folders, or by downloading data to a thumb drive when a team member comes to the farm for an in-person transfer.

Over 60 farms are participating in the yield monitor data project, and 52 have zone maps so far. If you’re a farmer interested in participating, check out the NMSP website for more information, or email mmarcaida [at] cornell.edu (mmarcaida[at]cornell[dot]edu) with questions or a request to join.

Madeline Hanscom is a writer for the Nutrient Management Spear Program.

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