That harvest map is still the basis for a lot of decision-making on your farm. Can it help you find yield-limiting factors? It all starts with making sure the data you collect is accurate across the field. Then, quality time with your agronomist can help you identify what’s keeping you from a top-yielding return.

Instead of a tutorial about cleaning up the yield map before review, check with your software provider for the steps you need to take to make sure the information you look at is correct. Then you can start looking at patterns. One tip to maximizing these maps is analyzing them as quickly as possible after harvest so any factors that caused yield troubles may be fresh in your mind.

The key to that colorful map is the patterns. Where do you see higher yields? Where do yields drop off?

Those patterns can be natural or man-made. The natural pattern will most likely appear as an irregular area and may be caused by soil-type changes, wet spots, pests or localized weather issues.

If you identify those bad spots and they’re not well-defined, a trip to the field is in order for some “ground-truthing,” where you can see just what might be happening. A review of soil and drainage maps will help, too.

Man-made problems will usually show up in straight lines or geometric shapes that have abrupt boundaries. If you use manure as a nutrient source and you see a sudden change in yield at the boundary of an application, you know the impact of that practice — good or bad. This is also a great way to spot hybrid or variety changes and how they fared, especially if the underlying soil type didn’t change.

Quick figuring

Here’s an interesting tip. Every yield map for a field has summary information — average yield, average moisture and total acres covered. Tracking those summaries across all your fields can give you a quick tally of total yield and yield per acre, and if you have an average price, you can get gross profit per acre pretty fast.

That yield map is a starting point, and sometimes some detective work is needed. You and your agronomist will find useful information in the changes across a field so you can keep improving.