Harvest Is About More Than Crop Yield

Sally Krueger

Oct. 22, 2018

Harvest is underway, and that means it’s time to see all of your hard work and investment pay off. But don’t let harvest be only about crop yield—harvest time also provides a great opportunity to evaluate the decisions you made throughout the year and begin evaluating decisions you’ll make for next season.

As you harvest each field, take time to jot down any details about this year’s production while they remain fresh in your mind. No detail is to small and will be valuable information when planning future crops, whether for next season or those in the future.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

1. Did the characteristics of the variety I chose meet my expectations on this field?

Consider the genetics and traits you planted, along with plant population, early vigor, disease tolerance and standability. Could conventional seed have been used just as effectively, possibly at a lesser cost per acre?

2. What could I have done to improve weed control?

Identify the weeds that are present at harvest and note their location in-field. Note the herbicide program that was used. Was your method of control acceptable? What could have been done differently to obtain a better result? Could substitution of generic active ingredients of the herbicides used saved some expense dollars? Could the use of different modes of action herbicides control your weeds at equal or more efficiently at less cost?

3. Were there any diseases visibly evident and when?

Did you use a fungicide? Note the timing of any fungicide application. Estimate the level of control that you received and where a fungicide was applied in-field. Could a different fungicide have the same or better results for less expense? Are stalk rots an issue during this harvest? Watch for grain quality issues if plans are to store the grain.

4. Was there any insect damage that could have been avoided?

Observe grain quality for insect damage several times during this harvest. Note the timing of any insecticide applications made. Write down the name of the target insects along with the infestation level. Would different application timing or a different insecticide mode of action change the insect control result? Control varies by insects and crop stage of growth, so make notes accordingly.

5. Was my fertility program adequate throughout the season to produce quality grain?

Examine the crop plants and grain being harvested. Was the fertility program adequate throughout the season and producing quality grain? Were tissue tests made to determine adequate nutrient levels in the plant? Could my fertility program be more efficient?

6. What did my soil tests reveal?

An annual soil test should be done at similar times of the year to be sure that proper nutrients are available for every crop to be grown. Soil tests can also help you with locating areas in-field that have specific soil problems that need to be addressed. Were any nutrient deficiencies identified at anytime during the growing season? Was my nutrient application timing the best it could have been, or does it need adjustment?

7. Did all equipment do an acceptable job of planting, spraying chemicals, cultivation and harvesting?

Do any repairs or maintenance need to be prioritized? Should some equipment be replaced or rebuilt to do a better job in the future?

8. Do you have a crop insurance claim to address?  

Did you purchase the correct crop insurance package? What changes might you make for 2019 crop season?

9. Where else could I gain efficiencies or reduce cost on the farm?

Every farm should be evaluated separately for opportunities to improve overall profit potential, from savings on input costs to reducing risk with new crop marketing opportunities. What can I do to improve my field-level input costs, reduce risk and gain more profitability for the operation?

10. Should I check in with my neighbors?

Is there anything I noticed about my neighbor’s fields during the season? What conversations could we have to help each other improve? Consult with your neighbors about the crop inputs that worked for them, as well as those giving unacceptable control, as well as what they plan to plant next year. This information-sharing approach will help to ensure good communication in your community and help you both.

Always read and follow label use instructions. Please consult with an independent agronomist and consider your specific field conditions (e.g,. soil type and texture, weed pressure, and rotational factors) before making a chemical planning or purchasing decisions. You are solely responsible for complying strictly with the label and the laws in your jurisdiction and for your intended application. Please note, this information is not intended as an agronomic recommendation, nor are we making any such recommendation.

Sally Krueger

Oct. 22, 2018