A lot of people record it. A lot of people collect it. But once it’s all said and done, not many know what to do with it. This “it” I’m referring to is agricultural data.
I’m sure a lot of growers reading this can relate. It is one thing to collect data from all your machines. But what comes next? What are you doing with all that data? How is it being harnessed to make the best decisions and impact on the next growing season?
The end of a season presents a great opportunity for a few data management and analysis best practices. Growers who use the John Deere Operations Center can get the most out of that ag data with these five best practices, while growers who use other platforms can still keep these tips as good takeaways to implement in their operations.
Want to hear more on this topic? Listen to the latest episode of the Agriculture Technology podcast: End of Season Data Do’s and Don’ts.
1. Transfer Data
The first step to using ag data is getting it from machine displays into a system. There are several types of Farm Management Information Systems (FMIS) where it can be viewed and analyzed and there are several ways to transfer data.
All Deere displays are capable of manual data transfer and those that are 2630 or newer have the added option for wireless data transfer (WDT). Deere 2600 displays require manual transfer with a data card.
Growers with newer Generation 4 displays on machines that are JDLink-enabled can use Data Sync or WDT for a seamless process that sends the data from the machine into the Operations Center. They can also opt for a manual transfer via flash drive. Growers with 2630 displays who do not want to do a manual transfer with a data card or flash drive simply need an ethernet cable that connects the display to the JDLink MTG to transfer their data.
As my colleague, Jacob Maurer noted in his most recent article, the Operations Center not only works for Deere machines, growers with mixed fleets or other brands of equipment can use the Operations Center as their FMIS. Read more on that and tips for how to use the John Deere Operations Center.
For growers with non-Deere equipment or those with 2600 displays that require manually transferring data, Deere’s Data Manager is required. This computer desktop tool acts as the bridge to get the raw data from the machine into the Operations Center.
2. Review Data Accuracy
Once all the data is in the Operations Center, growers should review to ensure everything looks accurate. Are all the fields properly named? Are the hybrids and varieties that were actually used properly noted?
Doing this review right at the end of the season gives growers the advantage of everything still being fresh in their mind. It is easy to identify issues that need to be cleaned up and corrected now rather than trying to remember a few weeks or months later.
3. Clean Up and Correct Data
After reviewing the data for errors, corrections can be done right in the Operations Center. The importance of this step and having a fresh memory of the season is again why it is strongly recommended to tackle data clean-up soon after season’s end.
It is common to fat-finger something on the display during the season. An operator may have forgotten to turn on Overlap Control for the header during harvest, making the area harvested not accurate to the actual field. Maybe Variety Locator was not used so the varieties and hybrids are not properly named. These simple errors can be manually corrected in the Operations Center.
Another valuable, common correction to note is the ability to post-calibrate yield. If a yield monitor was not properly calibrated or a grower knows that it is showing incorrectly, that too can be calibrated after the fact right in Operations Center.
4. Delete Data from Displays
When data is transferred from a display into the Operations Center, the data is not deleted from that display. It says in there, as-is, not the cleaned-up and corrected version that’s living in Operations Center. It is a good best practice to delete all the data once it is transferred.
Not only does deleting the old data eliminate the possibility of re-importing bad data, it also frees up space in the display. With Gen 4 displays, this isn’t as much of a concern, as the internal memory is quite large. However, with older displays like 2600 or 2630, data can pile up and fill up the allotted space much faster.
5. Analyze Data
The final step in getting the most value from in-season data is the analysis. After all, being able to make educated decisions really is the reason growers spend the time and energy to collect and manage data. There is a lot of good info that comes from the data that, when reviewed and analyzed, can help drive actions that benefit the bottom line.
There are different ways to view and analyze the data. The info can be presented in a PDF or exported into a spreadsheet. One great way to make sense of the data is to generate reports. There are various types of reports that can be generated from Operations Center, from variety and hybrid reports to basic harvest reports.
How do these reports help growers make those impactful decisions? Let’s use an application report as an example. This report would show the amount of each product applied, when it was applied, and on which field. A grower could reference that data with other data on crop health, yield, and weather to determine if a field may need more or less application in the future to net better results.
In addition to reports on all stages of the growing cycle, the Operations Center offers a Machine Analyzer tool that can help growers understand and manage their equipment fleet. The Machine Analyzer is useful when benchmarking and comparing like machines. It can also help a grower see if features like a sprayer’s section control and tractor’s AutoTrac™ are being used properly. Finally, growers can find out how their operators are performing and see if there are opportunities to better train them on best practices and proper operation techniques.
Every growing season has an end. It is common to see a calendar-year cycle for those who farm in the Midwest, kicking off with spring planting and taking a few weeks off after fall harvest. For those in warmer year-round climates, one growing season may end in April while another closes out in the fall.
No matter when that season end happens, it is always the best time to manage data the machines have collected during the growing season. From planting and spraying to harvest and field work, every phase of the growing cycle brings data that can be transformed into insights and used to make better decisions next year.
Watch the video series Precision Ag Answers – from RDO Equipment Co. on YouTube for a mix of quick tips and deep dives into the biggest precision agriculture questions.
To learn more about the John Deere Operations Center or precision agriculture offerings from RDO Equipment Co., contact your local RDO Equipment Co. store.