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  • Knowledge is Power in Precision Farming

Knowledge is Power in Precision Farming

Sunlight, water, and fertilizer have always been key to agriculture, but enterprising farmers are finding a new ingredient to get the most out of their land – data. But not just any data, clean data.

Farmers have used sensors for years to monitor their crops, using the data they collect to customize operations to maximize yield. These data, however, were often incomplete or inaccurate. That’s why researchers at the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research Unit in Columbia, MO, have developed Yield Editor.

Yield Editor is downloadable software that provides more reliable and defensible yield maps. ARS’s Scott Drummond and Ken Sudduth designed Yield Editor for their research projects, but as other researchers and early precision farming adopters saw the importance of the tool, they released the first edition of the software to the public in 2003.

Farmers have downloaded Yield Editor more than 12,000 times, with ever-increasing monthly totals, Drummond said. The software runs on any Microsoft Windows machine.

“Yield Editor was created to help remove common systematic errors from yield data,” Drummond said. “It’s typically used when working with data collected from the combine’s yield monitor system. While it is primarily a tool for grain crops, some folks have used it for cotton harvest, silage harvest, and a few other similar tasks.”

This tool helps farmers quantify how much yield they gain or lose within different areas or treatment blocks within their fields – information that might help them figure out what is causing the differences, and to determine whether a change in field management might be warranted.

“We know that every dataset includes a significant number of errors, and Yield Editor is very successful at finding and removing them,” Drummond said. “Scientifically speaking, the resulting maps show much better spatial coherence and greatly reduced short-scale variability.

“As data-driven precision agriculture begins to have more impact on the decision-making process, it is even more important that data is as accurate and unbiased as possible. It’s never too late to use Yield Editor. Many folks have never cleaned up any yield data, and don’t realize it is a necessary part of the process.”

Drummond and Sudduth are currently working on an update to Yield Editor that will include more functionality while giving users the ability to create analyses that are custom tailored to their own data, and to share that code with the community. They expect beta testing of Yield Editor 3 later this year. By Scott Elliott, ARS Office of Communications.

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