Yield Mapping: How It Helps Farmers Grow High-Value Crops

Yield Mapping: How It Helps Farmers Grow High-Value Crops
External Guest Writer
May 19, 2021

Traditional methods of agriculture have proven to be unsustainable in the modern times, especially with the rise of global warming and instability in the environment. In order to bring traditional methods up to speed, technology is being utilized to optimize various processes of farming.

One such area where technology is stepping up to the plate to solve the issues faced by farmers is with regard to yield mapping. In the following article, we discuss the specifics of yield mapping, its basic components, the applications and potential of yield mapping, and the advancements seen in this sector in recent times.

What is Yield Mapping?

Yield mapping or yield monitoring is a development in precision agriculture that was first developed in the early 1990s. The idea behind this technology is to provide as much information regarding the soil in the farm and the eventual yield being generated. It can help to highlight the differences in the soil in various regions of the farm, offer information about moisture content, and enable the farmer to address various related issues in the farm.

Many high-value crops such as onions, carrots, green beans, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes require the help of smart farming technology in order to maximize their yield. Yield mapping does exactly this by using various pieces of technology and data in order to educate the farmers to help them make the most of their resources.

What Are the Basic Components of a Yield Mapping or Yield Monitor System?

Some of the basic components that form a part of a yield map system include:

  • Grain flow sensors: These sensors help to determine the overall volume of the grain being harvested
  • Grain moisture sensor: These sensors help to compensate for the variability of the moisture levels of the grains
  • GPS antenna: Allows the farmer to receive satellite signals
  • Clean grain elevator speed sensor: Utilized in some yield mapping systems to help increase the accuracy of the grain flow measurements
  • Yield monitor display with a GPS receiver: Helps in recording data related to georeferencing
  • Travel speed sensor: This sensor can determine the distance of travel during specific logging intervals
  • Header position sensor: Vital in distinguishing the measurements recorded during turns

In order to guarantee the efficiency of a yield mapping system, each of these sensors and technological components need to be accurately calibrated. Recording the data received from the various sensors is done using a proprietary binary log file that’s created during the harvest period. The yield monitor vendor’s software will allow farmers to convert this data into either a map or in text format.

Applications of Yield Mapping in Agriculture

There are many applications and benefits related to yield maps or yield monitoring in agriculture. We present some of the most important applications below:

Collecting Yield Data

Collecting yield data and conducting a thorough analysis of this information is a crucial component of smart farming. This process has various benefits for the farmers which includes crop visualization and crop variability. It is also possible for a farmer to understand exactly why there is crop variability in different sections of their field. 

Yield data also makes it easy for farmers to collect data regarding the effect of various chemicals on their yield. They can use this information to regulate the use of chemicals going forward.

Understanding Moisture Content

Based on the current water level in the soil, it becomes possible for farmers to make an educated choice regarding the type of crops they want to farm on the soil. Some crops can thrive in low-volume water conditions while others require a consistent supply of moisture across their growth cycle.

Once a farmer is able to definitively establish the moisture content in their soil, they will also be able to decide if they need to increase or decrease the supply of water to certain crops. 

Perfecting Fertilizer Usage

High-value crops are dependent on an appropriate amount of fertilizer to improve their growth. Too much or too little fertilizer can affect the growth of these crops, and this is where yield mapping can step in to save the day. 

Thanks to this technology, it is easy for a farmer to isolate regions of their farm where yield rates have been on the lower end in recent years. Based on whether the fertilizers are positively or negatively affecting these regions, the farmer can switch usage accordingly. This helps farmers save money in the long run and maximize the yield of high-value crops.

Financial Benefits

Speaking of saving money, the use of yield mapping can have enormous financial benefits for farmers in the short and long run. For farmers with large fields, it can be a taxing chore to study which sections of their fields need improvement in their efficiency. It is likely that this chore is even ignored and the farmer is dealing with low-yields year after year.

Yield mapping or yield monitoring will allow farmers to make the most of their fields without putting in the effort that was traditionally required in this department. The data will assist the farmers in focusing on sections with maximum potential and working on the regions that have the potential to do well but are under-performing.

The Advancements in Yield Mapping Technology

Yield map technology has come a long way since it was first developed in the early 1990’s. There are numerous advancements in the yield maps field that are worth knowing, and this section is dedicated to these advancements.

Improvement in GPS

When yield mapping was first introduced as a farming system, GPS technology was at its infancy stage. The first yield mapping product did not even include a GPS component because of this factor. Today, GPS is an integral part of yield mapping and it lends immense accuracy to the entire process.

Improvement in Precision

Early yield-monitoring systems had numerous bugs and issues related to inaccurate spatial readings and field maps. Even the ability to utilize the data being generated was very poor two decades ago. Today, the precision offered by yield-mapping has improved immensely, with most systems operating close to 100% accuracy. Computing technology has also played a major role in allowing us to understand, interpret, and implement the data being generated from yield-mapping.

Self-Calibration Capabilities

As we’ve already mentioned, the advancements in GPS technology has greatly improved the accuracy of yield mapping systems. Adding to this is the fact that there has been a shift to the use of yield monitors that are capable of self-calibrating whenever necessary. 

In previous systems, farmers or technicians would have to conduct repeated manual calibrations of various components, and this made the overall system more susceptible to errors.

Correcting Overlaps

Yield maps and monitors now possess the capability to perfectly understand the dimensions and space of any given farm thanks to various advancements in GPS and related technologies. This enables the monitor to recognize and detect whenever it passes onto an area of the farm that has already been covered.

This innovation was not available until recently, and this caused a lot of incorrect readings to be recorded due to overlapping errors. This issue is now a thing of the past!

Precision Agriculture: The Yield Monitoring and Mapping Potential

The potential for yield maps is truly immense. In fact, it is bound to become an even more potent component of smart farming as technological advancements in the field improve over time. 

Yield mapping can be used by farmers around the world to maximize their land and overall productivity. It can help to improve the efficiency on farm lands and will eventually take us to a point where we reduce the amount of land being dedicated to farming. 

This is an exciting direction as currently over 50% of the habitable land is already being dedicated to agriculture. Yield mapping holds the potential to bring that percentage down considerably over time.

Read more precision agriculture topics: Drone and UAV Farming