When diving into a new business, farmers are primarily driven by the potential profit. In attempting to support a profitable farm business, they often decide to grow high-value crops that have higher market prices than grains; such as tomato, sugarcane, onion, cucumber, apple, almond, blueberry, apricot, and many other fruits and vegetables.
On one hand, growing high-value crops sounds tempting. But, on the other hand, crop production is never a steady business. In fact, even the slightest change in growing conditions or farm management can significantly impact final yields. Therefore, farmers desiring the best yield results, must focus and listen to the story told by their crops and fields.
Yield Mapping is the Ticket to Productive Crop Production
Crop production is a business that raises a lot of questions, such as which practice is best for specific crops. Another farmer’s concern raised is which direction of pest protection or nutrient management will lead to healthy and vigorous crops. The answer to these questions and many others is often hidden in the last place a farmer would think. In other words, when searching for the best way to improve crop production and increase yield, the solution is often hidden in the yield itself. Since yield frequently varies throughout the field, knowing the exact yield on each location is the first step towards farm management improvement.
Yield mapping is considered to be a solution. Yield mapping is one of the wonders of precision farming. Using technology, yield mapping collects the data about the yield on a specific location. Regarding high-value crops, yield mapping refers to:
- yield estimation during the crop life-cycle
- collection of data about the final yield during the harvest
Based on the data collected in yield estimation, farmers can easily determine which areas produce more and which are falling behind. This allows farmers to detect the cause of yield variation and adapt their farm management to increase the final yield. Moreover, yield mapping during the harvest produces data about spatial yield variation while the harvester travels over the field.
Now, the question remains: How to turn yield maps into tickets for a productive crop production? For the beginning, farmers can use yield maps to investigate the cause of yield variability. Additionally, farmers can create a yield mapping history. This can be helpful in determining future yield goals, as well as for detection of yield patterns influenced by different farm management practices.
Technology Used for Yield Mapping of High-Value Crops
Yield mapping technology of high-income crops works similarly to grain yield mapping technology. The main difference is in the additional technology needed for yield estimation of high-value crops (grain yield mapping does not include yield estimation) and the position of sensors.
Regarding the yield estimation, technology primarily includes various cameras and sensors that detect the buds and flowers, as well as immature and mature fruits. Some devices count the number of individual fruits, while others measure other yield-related parameters (i.e. tree canopy size) to estimate the potential yield.
Furthermore, technology for yield mapping of high-value crops performed during the harvest is usually classified into the three groups:
1. Mass/ volume flow measurement devices
The work principle and sensors used for mass or volume flow measurement of high-value crops are generally similar to grain mass or volume flow measurement. The difference is, however, in the position of devices. Devices for mass/ volume flow measurement of high-value crops are usually placed at the end of the fruit conveyor belt, before the fruit is delivered into a truck.
2. Devices used for batch weighing
Batch weighing devices measure the yield by converting the crops into the series. Each crop serial is weighted by using load cell sensors that convert the load or force acting on it into an electrical signal before delivering into the truck. They are usually placed at the end of the harvester’s boom.
3. Devices used for cumulative weighing
Cumulative weighing devices are usually used in cases when the harvested crop is collected in a container or truck. The system measures the total weight of harvested crop within a certain time using load cell sensors installed on a container or bulk.
Regardless of the type of technology used, all farmers who practice yield mapping of high-value crops share the same ambition: data-driven farm management.
When all things are considered, crop production is an unpredictable business and true success is reserved only for farmers who are able to detect even the slightest change in yield, investigate the cause of the change, and act on improvements that need to be made.
So, from time to time ask yourself about the true story of your crops and yields.
Text sources: Thünen Institute