Data Builds Confidence

Are you confident? Where does that confidence come from? From your life experiences? From your successes? Even your failures? What about the decisions you make in your crop production business? Are you confident in the decisions you make?

I believe that many of the decisions we currently make in crop production are based on our observations from previous experiences. Almost subconsciously, we make observations as we go through each crop year and those observations are stored away in our mind and later retrieved as part of our pro- cess for future decision-making.

We observe yellow corn where an applicator knife was plugged and that observation becomes part of our future decision making process. The importance of uniform emerging picket-fence-spaced cornfields largely started with growers and agronomists observing plants and ears as they walked their fields. We remember what it was like to observe six inches of early April snow on our planted fields and we tend to store that emotion away.

The power of human observation can be incredible and lead to great innovation, but the downside is that each of us also bring our own biases. Our observations are tinted with the lens of our own life experiences.

One way to think of using your agronomic data to make better decisions is think of your yield monitor as an “unbiased observation monitor”! Every second, it allows you to observe yield results for that unique part of your field. You are collecting yield observations thousands and thousands of times across your operation. Technology allows you to “scale” the power of unbiased observation! The hybrid that looked so good to our human eyes can be eliminated from our portfolio if the data analysis from our unbiased observation monitor doesn’t prove it worthy. The more observations we have the more confidence we have in making decisions.

When we first started Premier Crop, I drew the comparison between what we’re doing with Premier Crop and the Dairy Herd Improvement Association. DHIA is a record-keeping database system that documents production by the individual cow — same as we’re doing within tiny areas in fields. DHIA allowed dairy farmers to bench-mark each cow’s performance, not just to the other cows in the herd but also to other cows in the database.

Virtually every management decision that has been made in the dairy industry since has been based on data. Genetic selection, nutrition and herd management changed rapidly as the entire industry moved to data-based decision-making. DHIA, once a management practice used by a few innovators, grew to become an entire industry’s standard operating procedure. The swine industry followed and now virtually all pork producers participate in some detailed database program.

Data driven decisions empower growers and will change crop production forever.


Originally published in Corn and Soybean Digest.

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