Why should I be digitally recording on-farm data?

Over the coming winter months I will be talking to hundreds of UK farmers about SOYL's Precision Farming application, MySOYL, and other associated in-field apps.

Many will likely wonder what value there is in recording what they see on farm in an app and have this data synced to a central place. Our field-walking app, iSOYLscout, does exactly this and there are many reasons I encourage more and more farmers to do it.

The data speaks for itself

The value of data grows over time and this allows farmers to make more informed, supported decisions. As an example, when yield-mapping started back in the early 1990's, the technology wasn't particularly sophisticated and the value of recording crop yields from across the field had limited use. Criticisms were often centred on 'data being in the past' and 'that was last year's crop, we're in the following season now' and so on.

But as the years passed, persistent users found themselves with an archive of yield maps which had depth. The inconsistencies of odd growing seasons were ironed out and maps of performance could then be produced over time. Eventually, farmers were able to look at which physical areas of the business were consistently making positive contributions to profit and how to maximise these results. In contrast, they could also review and potentially change the management of any areas having the opposite effect.

The point is that although the value of the individual yield map wasn't necessarily apparent in the first year, over time the value was derived by the amount of information captured.

One of the key messages I often promote is to always record the information. While its use may not be obvious in the first instance, we will certainly discover uses for it in the future. What we can't do is go back in time when we suddenly realise why we need it!

So, when recording data on farm, use iSOYLscout to log simple observations. Anything that might have a bearing on a future decision – crop establishment (good and bad), weed populations, weed persistence post-herbicide, soil conditions and pest occurrences – will no doubt prove useful in time. It will help our decision-making going forward if we know (through accurate records, not memory!) what the crop establishment was in the autumn when conditions were difficult, or very favourable. Is that weed population now worse or better? Did the winter wheat establish poorly the last time we grew it here? How about plotting the quality of establishment against the rainfall in the days or weeks before drilling?

In a world where justification is key when looking to control a pest (like slugs) in a targeted way, or wanting to demonstrate that one part of your field is always the most susceptible, such records are vital. Any grower with such an archive of stored data can be far more proactive and ahead-of-the-game when dealing with potential threats and challenges on farm. For those without, it's often very much a case of waiting for damage to occur before being able to take any action and by then it might be too late.

So, just by using digital data more effectively, it's important to remember there are several winners. The farmer, the crop and the environment.  

Tom Parker
Head of products & technology 

 For specific advice for your business related to this blog or any other aspect of precision crop production get in touch with SOYL.

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Sunday, 07 August 2022

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