Harvesting the balance of the 2017 crop, the Harvester Operator has a bird’s eye view of the crop condition and performance. Along with the yield monitoring equipment, the Operators observations and keen eye can help pin point abnormalities. A few of these abnormalities include crop appearance, field erosion, disease presence, wildlife damage, hedgerow competition, drainage, weed pressure, skips, harvest population, and volume through the harvester.
General crop appearance, crop color, density, ear placement, and size are all important factors during harvest that can influence yield. Others include, soybean pod formation, count, and height from the ground, as well as general stock quality in all crops – alfalfa, corn, soybeans or straw quality in small grains.
Field erosion may be a signal of a bigger problem – what is the source of the water causing the erosion and how can it be diverted or corrected. Field erosion can cause soil and nutrient loss, which can lead to environmental concerns by neighbors and regulators.
When a disease is present it is important to determine if it is a leaf disease, stalk disease, or root condition concern. Is the pressure heavier in isolated areas or field wide, is it only present on certain soil types, or is there a drainage issue in certain locations of the field? Disease pressure may demand action in subsequent crops by rotation or timely application of fungicides.
Wildlife damage may be crop or location driven. What surrounds the crops may determine wildlife damage – wildlife habitat, ponds, rivers, and other above ground water sources in the area add to bird and water fowl damage potential. Will different crops or buffer crops aid in control or is the area just not profitable with heavy damage?
Is the current drainage program effective, are existing tiles functioning properly, are there other areas that should be addressed, are the tile ends clear, or will ditch work or cleaning be helpful in the future?
Are there skips in weed control? Are there areas of concentration of late season weeds or hard to control weeds like field bindweed, burcucumber, marestail, or weeds such as nutsedge that may require a different control approach? Identifying weed challenges may require a multiple application approach or a crop rotation.
Do populations meet desired harvest expectations, was the emergence even, or are there areas of the field where populations are worse than others? Does variety selection effect harvest population, what were seed treatments, are there planter issues, insect pressure, or did early wildlife feeding have an effect?
Lastly, but most importantly, did yield measure up to expectations given the inputs and weather provided by the growing season, and did some areas perform better than others?
The keen observations of the harvest machine operators can help direct fall soil testing to whole field or a zone or grid approach. Would you benefit from variable rate seed drop or fertilizer applications? What about variety selections for the next crop year, rotations, and field suitability for continued cropping?