Get more from maps
The landowner flatly refused to upgrade tiling, even though current tile lines are 80 feet apart on heavy clay soil. Just days ago, the tenant brought yield maps for 2010 corn. Once he explained the maps, it removed all shades of gray. The value of drainage was crystal clear and in very vivid, living color.
The field that wasn’t well-drained took a big hit in May and June. The stand was reduced, and nitrogen was lost. The tenant noted the benefits of tile extended about 20 feet on either side of the line. The 20 feet from there until the next tile line kicked in was striking. The tenant left with an OK to install tile between the original lines.
• 2010 should be a great year to show benefit of drainage through yield maps.
• The value of liming applications may show up in maps.
• Give the landowner a reason to care about what he or she sees in yield maps.
This scenario was tweaked to simplify it, but it’s based on an Indiana farm. The effect of drainage is easy to document on yield maps after wet springs.
“One possible use of yield maps is to define areas within a field that need drainage improvement,” says Dave Taylor, Richmond, an Indiana certified crop adviser with Harvest Land Co-op. “Being able to assess yield loss, thus income loss on acres with less than ideal drainage, gives you and your landlords the ability to come up with a plan financially to improve those acres.”
A yield map from soybeans combined in a field lined by woods ought to prove how much yield trees cost you. If it didn’t rain in your area in August or September, those areas likely suffered most. You may be surprised to see how far out the effect edges. Your yield map will likely indicate what happens when soybeans compete with trees for subsurface moisture.
“You can certainly show how fencerows and woods affect yields using yield maps,” says Steve Gauck, Greensburg, a CCA and sales rep for Beck’s Hybrids.
The other big value for yield maps is defining areas that need variable-rate lime or fertilizer applications. “Yield maps work well to show areas of the field that may need lime,” Gauck says. Now would be an excellent time to determine where those areas are and apply lime.
Maps help put a finger on these or other variables that are affecting yield, notes Chuck Barr, with Senesac Inc., Fowler. “Identifying variables may lead to using more or less fertilizer,” he says.
Why should landowner care?
Where the rubber meets the road is in convincing landowners why they should care if drainage or tree-lined fencerows hurt your yields. If it’s a 50-50 lease, your odds of hitting home are better than if it’s a cash lease.
“The flip side is asking why your landlord should see value in yield maps,” Gauck says. “Are you using them to adjust or affect cash rent?
“Can you use the yield map to show the landlord where they can make improvements on the farm, therefore increasing their returns?”
This article published in the November, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.