Anyone can collect data, but it takes effort to turn it into knowledge. You may have 10 years’ worth of “as applied” or “as planted” data, by field. But if it’s still on the card and you haven’t adjusted your fertility, planting population or other data accordingly, you haven’t benefited. Let’s talk about turning your information into profits.

Technology provides us with all sorts of data about our farms that was previously unavailable; the real question is what we do with that data. Some technologies’ benefits resemble a hybrid car, and some resemble an exercise treadmill. With a hybrid car you benefit the minute you use it by saving fuel. The exercise treadmill requires some effort on your part to provide a benefit or return on investment.

Auto-steering provides immediate benefits by reducing your fatigue and standardizing your rows. But the data you collect while planting, soil testing or harvesting is more like the treadmill; if you don’t do anything with it, you haven’t benefited.

New wireless technologies can help automate the information transfer step. Think about the potential for data to stream off a combine directly to a crop consultant who analyzes it and provides recommendations that increase yields by 20 bu./acre in your poor-producing areas. This is added return onto your investment in wireless technology. By beaming your data directly to someone who streamlines your operation from it, you’ve increased your profitability.

That’s the difference between data and knowledge. It’s a change in philosophy. Because we only have so much time in a day, we don’t always get around to fully using every bell and whistle on our information systems.

We may have recorded more variables than ever before about our fields, nutrient program, hybrid placement and field populations, but are we finding the time to crunch that information for maximum benefit?