Big data gives you the ability to capture information you can use to make decisions that improve the yield and profitability of your soybean crop.
Success in soybean production today is becoming increasingly dependent upon data—data about varieties to choose, data about pest management under your production system, data about inputs, data about yield—all types of data that can be used to guide decisions before, during and after the growing season. With the technology tools available to farmers today, it is easy to collect lots of data for each field each season. Taking advantage of that data is part of good management.
And taking advantage requires management of that data itself—organizing and interpreting it to make better-informed crop management decisions. Again, farmers have a range of tools available to help make better use of their data. These include simple apps for your smart phone, tablet or laptop computer. Other data tools include the services that collect and organize your data for you, and link to models and other decision aids that help you interpret it.
You may simply keep your records in a file or notebook on your own, or use one of several data packages provided from extension services. Also available are commercial software packages to manage and analyze your data. Or, you may want to subscribe to a commercial data service that stores your data in the “cloud”, links it with data from other farmers, provides summary information about your operation, and may provide comparative analysis of how your production system stacks-up against similar farms.
Which is the right choice for you depends on how much effort and time you want to spend on data yourself, how much money you want to spend on paying for data services and, most important, how willing you are to USE the data. The mountain of data you can collect can be intimidating when you try to sort through it. The tools and services for managing and interpreting it can be a big help—but they are only valuable if you make the effort to use the data to make decisions that help improve your crop productivity and profitability.
Big data is the data you collect about your production system and the outside services you may subscribe to that help you use that data as another tool that helps you make those better-informed management decisions.
The day is coming when you are going to build a database to document all of the inputs you use on each field, and maybe justify the what, why, when and where for each input. Big data, whether used only on your farm or included in a service and analysis with many other farms, is a part of your future. The earlier you start using these tools to build your farm database, the sooner you can reap its benefits and improve your operation. A well-developed, well-managed database can increase your production and profits and become a resource that improves the value of your farm.
Harold Reetz is a Certified Crop Adviser working as an agronomy consultant in Monticello, Illinois. His areas of expertise include high-yield crop production, precision farming technology, 4R plant nutrient management systems and conservation systems.