How to Collect Data for Farm Analytics

To efficiently collect data on your farming operation, it’s important to have a good plan and keep notes as you go, collect in a timely manner, and verify that data matches what happened throughout the season. There are many data points that need to be collected, verified, and entered to get a full-scope picture of your operation for analytics purposes.

Steps to Efficiently Collect Data for Farm Analytics:

  1. Take notes as you go
  2. Collect data files as soon as possible
  3. Communicate with your advisor to make sure they are aware of your expectations through the season
  4. Verify and validate your data at the end of the season


First of all, it’s so important to find an advisor that you trust and for the two of you to be on the same page before the season even begins. If everything goes according to plan, then you both know where seed/chemical/fertilizer goes. However, we know that even those most well-laid plans don’t always happen as we anticipate. In that case, it’s very important to take diligent notes.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to take notes as plans change while the change is fresh in your mind. It’s easy to remember something as it happens, but after a few weeks, you may not remember it exactly. One of the easiest things you can do for both you and your advisor is to print off the field information sheets that Premier Crop offers with each field. A simple notebook or text to your advisor also works if you don’t have these handy. Once you have these notes, you need to collect the corresponding data files as soon after you’ve finished as possible.

While you should collect data quickly after application occurs, it’s not possible to stop the planter after each field to send the new file to your advisor. However, if you use a cloud-based data management tool, such as John Deere Operations CenterClimate FieldView Plus, or Agfiniti, you can share your operation or username with your trusted advisor who can download files as you go. If those options are not in your arsenal, then exporting your files from the monitor and sending them to your advisor as soon as you are done with planting, spraying, or fertilizing is the next best alternative. If data is collected in a timely manner, it is much easier to verify that it is correct.

Verifying and validating data is a critical step for data analysis. Good data in = good analysis out. Validating is easiest to do when things are fresh in your mind. As long as you have created a game plan with your advisor, kept notes, and collected data in a timely manner, the validation part should be an easy and painless process. Our Premier Crop Advisors are here to help you through any of this process. If you don’t have a Premier Crop Advisor, reach out to us to see how we can get you on the path of doing more with your data.

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Understanding In-Season Decisions with Economics

For the most part, farmers will have made their input purchasing decisions before the soil is warm enough to begin planting.  Those in-season decisions that still remain can be some of the most challenging to make.  Not because they’re the most financially significant, but because there are so many factors present once the crop is planted (current weather, short and long-term forecast, crop condition, grain markets, fluctuating input prices, and an endless list of tasks to complete).  All of these factors can have an influence, consciously or sub-consciously, on a grower’s ability to make an effective in-season decision.

In the book, How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices, the first chapter is titled, “Resulting: Outcomes in the Rearview Mirror May Appear Larger Than They Are.”  Resulting, or outcome bias, is when a decision is made based on the quality of a prior outcome.  This type of rationale for decision making happens frequently and can lead to poor or unintended outcomes.  Here’s an example of what a resulting-influenced decision could be for a grower.

Last year Farmer John applied a fungicide to a field and left a few check areas.  The areas that received fungicide yielded 20 bushels more per acre.  Farmer John was so happy with the result he decided to apply fungicide on all of his corn acres going forward.

Will Farmer John see a 20 bu./acre yield advantage for using fungicide again this year?  Potentially.  The point I’m trying to make is that making decisions based solely on a previous personal experience isn’t a great process, especially when you’re in up-to-your-knees with other crop production tasks.  Even if the result were to turn out positive, I think it is important to balance data with ‘gut-feeling’ and instinct when making in-season decisions (80% data, 20% gut-feeling).

Starting the growing season with a plan is the first step to managing in-season decisions.  A comprehensive crop plan should factor in all potential applications and products that may be applied to a field within the given growing season.  The ability to reference a sound agronomic database with multiple years of local and regional data will help give confidence to the decisions outlined in the plan and prevent or minimize questions like these when time is of the essence:

1. How should I best-place the hybrids I’ve already purchased?

2. What are the right seeding rates for the hybrids / varieties within each field?

3. When should I start planting?  What if there is rain in the forecast two days out?

4. Do I need to use a starter fertilizer on my manured ground?

5. Do I need to be applying sulfur with our weed & feed, pre-plant?

6. Does my corn have enough nitrogen or should I make a side-dress application?

Using historical agronomic data relative to your own fields allows you to quantify the yield impact of many different agronomic variables.  Historical data isn’t a guarantee of future performance, but it’s a crucial component of quality in-season decision making.  For example, the ability to reference historical data of yield response to applied nitrogen from wet or dry years, and anything in between, provides a guideline for current conditions.  The next step in the process is to add current economic values, input costs and grain selling price, to the data being referenced.  Here’s another example.

Farmer Tim currently has an average nitrogen rate of 150 pounds applied to his corn fields.  The weather has been hot and dry for a few weeks, but there is a chance of rain in the nearby forecast and long-term predictions are trending slightly wetter.  The corn market has been volatile, but Farmer Tim has forward contracted some bushels and the current price is well above his breakeven.

Weather Futures

Referencing local historic data, Farmer Tim and his agronomic advisor determine that there is likely an 18 bu./ac opportunity to applying an additional 30 pounds of nitrogen.  At the current cash price that equates to $60+ per acre additional profit (Assumptions: New Crop Cash Corn = $5.00/ bu.; UAN = $.50/lb.; Application charge = $12/acre).

Marginal Return on Additional Nitrogen:  (Predicted yield increase x Corn Price)  –  (30# of Nitrogen + Application Cost)

Marginal Return on Additional Nitrogen

It’s important to incorporate economics when making in-season decisions to ensure return on investment (product and application expense).  In the example above, if the data showed only a 6 bu./ac gain, much closer to breakeven, the decision becomes harder to make.  Understanding the amount of economic risk or reward associated with in-season decisions should be included in a crop plan.  Formulating your crop plan to incorporate ‘What If’ scenarios will make it easier to pull the trigger on in-season decisions.

In-season agronomic decisions are challenging and often don’t receive the attention their economic impact warrants.  It’s important to work with a trusted agronomic advisor to help generate your crop plan so you can incorporate data and economics.  Having scenarios outlined ahead of season will increase the quality of your in-season decisions, and hopefully make them easier to make. Also, consider putting in some trials with your in-season applications (on/off fungicide or different nitrogen rates) – the best data comes from your own fields.

Response to Fungicide: It Varies

You don’t have to look very hard to find chemical manufacturers’ advertisements claiming a significant positive yield response (15, 20, 25+ bu./ac) to using one of their fungicide products. There are many effective products on the market that provide good control and protection against fungal pathogens, but advertisement claims based on ‘average trial data’ aren’t guarantees for your fields. Three critical components (a host, favorable environment, and pathogen) must come together at the same time for a plant disease to thrive. These three components are commonly referred to as the Plant Disease Triangle. Management or alteration of just one of these components prevents or reduces disease severity.



It’s important to refer back to the Plant Disease Triangle when gauging the need for fungicide application, as well as past local trial results and current crop economic conditions. How do environmental conditions within the field (soil pH, fertility levels, applied nutrients, etc.) affect the vulnerability of the host (corn or soybean plant) as it relates to disease pressures? Is a pH imbalance affecting nutrient uptake, which in turn makes this specific hybrid more susceptible to fungal disease pressure? Does it make sense, economically, to apply fungicide to lower productivity areas within fields? Variability exists in all fields and managing the yield-limiting factors is what will show a yield response come harvest. Agronomy is complex and agronomy is local. Yield response to fungicide fluctuates within each field based on the interactions of many variables, which are all part of the disease triangle. Conducting on-farm fungicide trials generates more agronomic knowledge related to this complex interaction, which improves decision making for future applications.

Being able to use my family’s farm as a ‘testing ground’ makes working with the solutions Premier Crop provides to our partners even more enjoyable. I am able to experience first-hand what many of our partners and advisors put into practice each and every day. Last year I placed a few fungicide Enhanced Learning Blocks (ELBs) in one of our fields to test the effectiveness of a popular fungicide product. An Enhanced Learning Block is a randomized, replicated trial of different rates, products or application timings. ELBs provide a formal testing environment within a field to determine whether or not the treatment had a statistically significant impact on yield.

Trials were setup to be an on/off scenario – 20 gal/ac and 0 gal/ac each replicated 6 times within the trial area (ELB). Two of the ELBs were placed within the same hybrid – one on heavier soil and the other about 800 feet away in lighter soil on a hill. The product was applied at R1 with a Hagie sprayer. Prior to application we had been receiving ample rainfall, so we anticipated potentially higher fungal disease pressure, however that was not the case.

The image below was taken with a drone about one month after application. You can easily see the replicates in the trial area that did not receive any product. Based on the image what do you estimate the yield difference to be between the treated and non-treated rates? What would an imagery solution come up with for a yield difference based off their algorithm calculating yield from NDVI?


As we were harvesting this field we could see the location of the fungicide trials as we worked towards them. While combining in the trials the difference in plant structure was obvious – the tops of the corn plants in the untreated replicates had all broken off. Both the drone image and visual observations at harvest pointed to a significant yield response to fungicide in both trials.

When I received the Enhanced Learning Block trial report I was a bit surprised with the actual results – visual observations are deceiving! One trial had a 1 bu/a yield response and the other was 8 bu/a. I was expecting at least a 15 bushel difference.

#1 – lower ground, heavier soil.

#2 – higher ground, lighter soil.

Why did the trial results end up this way? I have some ideas, but no definite answers. Likely the yield response shown in the trial on lighter soil was due to the treated plants’ improved ability to withstand late-season moisture stress, which wasn’t a yield-limiting factor in the heavier soil environment. What I do know is that a 1 bu/a response didn’t come close to paying for the product and application costs, and an 8 bu/a response was likely a little better than break-even. Understanding when, where, and to what degree these products work will allow for better utilization (spatial application), ultimately increasing ROI.

Are we going to spatially apply our fungicide next year? Probably not. Are we going to continue to conduct on-farm trials and Enhanced Learning Blocks to learn more about when, where, and how well fungicides work? Definitely. With the power of local agronomic knowledge, I don’t think it will be too long before spatial application of fungicide becomes a normal practice in crop production.

Making Fungicide Decisions with InSiteCDM

It’s the time of year where growers are thinking about whether or not to spray fungicide. We sat down with Clint Sires and Pat Mai, our Partners from InSiteCDM, to discuss how they walk through the conversation with growers around applying fungicide.


“It all comes down to what the grower is trying to do,” stated Pat.

InSiteCDM starts by discussing yield goals. Is the grower shooting for 180-bushel corn or 210 or 250? They ask the grower to think about what is realistic at this point in the season. The next thing they discuss is crop rotation.

“Most of the growers that InSiteCDM works with are those that are always trying to push the needle and achieve the biggest yields possible. And for that reason, these growers may only select varieties that respond to a fungicide. They’ve got high rates not only for fungicide but nitrogen as well,” said Cling. “There are varieties that are susceptible either to disease or they don’t emerge well, and we help them determine how offensive or defensive they need to be by looking at the data in our system. If you get the right year and the right growing season, they produce really well, and if the conditions are right, it’s easy to suggest applying the fungicide because you’re probably pushing population rates. InSiteCDM recommends fungicide not only to eliminate disease, but for the plant health benefit too.”

It’s important to look at the data and prove what yield environment to apply a fungicide. When InSiteCDM first started using Premier Crop in 2012 it was a drought year, similar to this season. At that point, they didn’t have historical data to help their customers make data driven decisions. However, since their partnership with Premier Crop and the anonymous group data, they were able to look at data in a different region to query hybrids and their response to fungicide. Now that InSiteCDM has been collecting their own data since 2012, they have a lot of historical data to back up decisions and recommendations to the grower based off a dry or wet year, first year corn, corn on corn, etc.

Clint shared, “A larger database brings in much more variability. If you’re within that certain top-level yield range, even in first-year corn, fungicides should probably be an automatic for you because you’re pushing nitrogen, which is the trend we see in our years of data. We have always tried to look at the data and prove at what yield environment you should be applying a fungicide. For example, if you’ve got a field where you’re happy with sub-200-bushel corn, then you probably want to take other things into consideration. Does that variety respond to fungicide? Do you have disease pressure in that field? What are the conditions? Has it been hot and wet, which favors diseases. Or cool and dry, where diseases aren’t going to be that big of a deal. With these factors it’s not quite as easy of a slam dunk that you’re going to get your investment back out.”

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that you can’t argue with the data.

Clint adds, “With the help of Premier Crop, InSiteCDM is rolling out more tools for cost tracking, and then now with the cost forecasting, I think that definitely gets growers thinking about it in terms of a business and income per acre, what the potential is.”

The new tools help growers look at their potential and think about it with a visual rather than just us talking about it. They actually get to see it, either in a chart form or a table. The adoption of cost tracking through InSiteCDM hasn’t been an overnight process, but they have made some really good gains with the growers that are experiencing that over the last year-and-a-half or so.

InSiteCDM growers know that to receive the best analytic results, they have to provide the best data possible to feed the model when forecasting for the year. Good data in equals good data out. So, if growers are doing their part and getting accurate information, they have a vested interest in making sure that when their InSiteCDM advisor shows them their cost per bushel — whether it’s at the farm level, the field level or within the management zone — they’ve got to give us the right, accurate information going into it upfront.

Clint said, “We’re lucky to have account managers that are able to dig into the data and showcase it, because otherwise the grower is just recording data and not doing anything with it. The program is only as good as somebody that’s explaining it to them, and we’re definitely seeing a lot of that with the direction we’re going. So we’re very happy about that.”

Having the data to make a fungicide recommendation is important, but it’s so much more than that.

“When you get into the depths of the program, where you’re utilizing the management zones and nitrogen rates, it really is a complete system. When you go back to the decision of whether or not to use fungicide, it really depends on what you’re doing as a system. Did you select that variety that’s going to respond to it? Are you pushing that population? Have you fed that variety the way it needs to be fed in the areas of the field that will respond to that? It’s a whole system approach,” Clint adds. “It’s exciting to see those growers that think they’ve kind of got things figured out until they get in the room with our advisors and start having that conversation and find out: ‘Whoa, there’s a lot more to this than I even thought you could do.’ In some of those meetings, you’ve got a grower that’s maybe been in InSiteCDM for awhile, and nobody’s really showing them anything. And the grower is thinking: ‘Well, what have you done for me lately?’ We sit down and actually go through their zones and bring up each individual field and talk through why it was set up the way it was. These are becoming his zones, not just something where we said it had to go there for a certain reason.”

The year 2012 was the first time in Clint’s career at InSiteCDM where northwest Iowa was hit with a major drought. Many grower were calling and asking: ‘What’s the data show?’ At that time at Ag Partners, they had a growing database nowhere near as large as it is now. Through that time, InSiteCDM had a significant number of acres, but didn’t have a pool, where they could go in and say: This is an absolutely dry year. How did the fungicide do?

Working with Premier Crop, they were able to look into different regions of data, where they had just gone through a drought three or four years earlier. This allowed InSiteCDM to query the database and show their growers that just because it’s dry, they should be applying the fungicide. With the plant health benefits, they saw a significant response in those areas. The data also showed that if your crop is burning up, and you’re not going to have a crop or anywhere near what you normally do, it’s prudent to save that money and not spend it on a fungicide.

It goes back to what the grower’s yield expectation is. That is where InSiteCDM has seen the greatest success.


You can listen to our full conversation with Pat and Clint on Episode 34 of the Premier Podcast

Why You Need Farm Analytics Software

We can all probably think of a product, service, or brand we feel biased towards. Then think about how you make decisions on your farming operation. Do you have any bias on how different fields respond to a certain seed, fertilizer, or crop protection product? Allowing your bias to persuade field decisions can be very costly and frustrating. Your knowledge of your own farm is invaluable. Using farm analytics can enhance your decision making by removing or challenging the bias with objective analysis.

I am guilty myself. It is easy to make assumptions and decisions based on previous experiences. However, using Premier Crop’s analytics platform, you can begin to dissect the different yield environments on your fields.


You can start anywhere. Do you have computers or hard-drives full of unused files or binders full of printed maps? Organizing and analyzing this data, and using it to make more informed decisions could be the biggest ROI on your farm.  You don’t have to be an expert on computers or an IT wizard, all you need is a trusted partner to help take the complexity out of your data so you can validate or challenge your own assumptions in order to optimize profit. Looking to read further about how to start using the data you’ve already collected? Download our Five Steps to Get Started Guide.


A traditional field agronomist who is providing scouting services and making product recommendations is still a valuable resource for your operation. The difference between an Agronomist and a Precision Ag Specialist is that an Agronomist has years of experience scouting for and monitoring the physical characteristics of your fields. A Precision Ag Specialist can take those physical characteristics and visualize them over your field and compare them to see how ALL of the layers are working together.  When you combine the two with a powerful farm analytics platform, you can really increase your return on investment!

I once had an experience working with a grower and his agronomist reviewing yield maps and grid sample data. During the discussion, the agronomist looked at me and said “You know, I have been scouting these fields for 20 years, and in one hour, you have just identified many of the key issues I have spent years identifying by presenting his data in an organized fashion and bringing these data layers together.”


At Premier Crop we focus heavily on PROVING what you’re doing on your farm. We frequently encounter a situation where a grower has been frustrated with precision ag in the past. Their frustrations come from the fact that there is not a good analysis of the precision practices being  implemented. One example we commonly see, and have proven, is a $100/acre swing in profit by increasing yield and saving seed with variable rate seeding, simply by optimizing the seeding rate to unique areas of the field. The dollars that are left on the table can be shocking if you’re not implementing VR Seed and VR fertility practices, AND verifying “it works” by marrying your agronomics to the economics.


Implementing a farm management system that organizes your most important farm information in one place can be eye-opening at first. You might be surprised that your original biases, thoughts, and intuitions may not have been as “true” as you thought. Premier Crop Systems simplifies and visualizes where to best spend your input dollar and how it can improve profits across all of your acres. We use Yield Efficiency to determine much is left to pay land and management after your costs are subtracted from total revenue.  Below you will see our Yield Efficiency by field across your farm. With this metric, we help growers determine which fields are making the most money.

Premier Crop Systems is proud to be the leading farm analytics platform since 1999. We continue to advance and improve alongside our partners and growers on a daily basis. Together, we help you gain more insight into your operation for confident and profitable decision making. Let us come alongside you to reduce the complexity and add another dimension so you can exceed your own expectations. Contact us now to schedule an information meeting.

Why do you need to start using farm analytics software? Here’s 4 reasons:

  1. Fully utilize the data you’ve already collected and use it to make decisions
  2. Take advantage of the benefits of having a team of agronomic professionals working together for your operation
  3. Optimize seeding, nutrient, and fertilizer rates to see swings in profitability and savings per acre
  4. Become confident in your decision making while reducing the complexity of data

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5 Surprising Things About Ag Technology

Do you remember the 90s? I was an elementary student, probably about 7 when my parents bought our first computer. I remember listening to the dial up tone to get on the internet and play the math video games that my mom had found. I also remember the incessant pop ups that also came with 90s internet. Sometimes, that’s how I feel about precision ag these days. There are a lot of pop ups that are flashy and use all the right buzz words wanting you to ‘pick me, pick me, pick me.’ However, there are several things about precision ag that these companies often leave out of their messaging that can be surprising. 5 of those things that can often surprise people are:

  1. There are no magic algorithms
  2. Achieving higher yields isn’t the best way to measure success
  3. You don’t need to be a data scientist or technology expert to use your data and equipment to its full ability
  4. Hiring an advisor you trust will help you become a more efficient and profitable farmer
  5. You’ve never learned it all



There is no such thing as a perfect magic algorithm. Finding the right product placement, rate, or timing is a constant trialing and evaluation cycle. It doesn’t have to be a headache of a process, though. A lot of our machines have rate control capability and trials that can be loaded right into the controller. At Premier Crop, we can automate these trials through what we call Enhanced Learning Blocks. These are randomized and replicated trials that will tell your machine to change rate, turn off, turn on, switch product, and whatever we want to test. Combining the data from the trial itself with weather data, soil samples, and applied fertility, we can start to gather what kind of agronomic environment this trial could be replicated on. They can also be aggregated to allow us to create response curves for products so we don’t question what that perfect rate might be.


As we gain better knowledge of product placement, rates, and timing, it is important to ask how we know when we have found success. Higher yield? That’s what many precision ag companies want us to believe. We can circle and map and see if it got us higher yield, but that’s only half of the picture. Agronomics are always important, but our decisions must also be advantageous to our pocketbook.

For example, let’s say this year I ran a potash trial on my field. In this trial, I had 3 different rates across an area of my field that has 280 ppm soil test K values. The rates we ran were 150 units of K, 200 units of K, and 250 units of K. That translates to 250 lbs of potash, 333 lbs of potash, and 417 lbs of potash, respectively. Our yield responses were then 225 bu, 248 bu, and 251 bu, respectively.

We continued to see an increase in each application, but do they all make sense economically for us? Let’s say that potash is $400/ton, application is $8/ac, and we sell our corn for $5/bu. Which is the best rate in these economic conditions? When we increased our potash from 250 to 333, we gained an additional revenue of +$90.33/ac. However, continuing to go from 333 lbs to 417 lbs, only increased our yield by an additional 3 bushels, we actually lost -$9.67/ac. Yield is only part of the picture, we need to take economics into account, too, especially as we move into a fall with extremely high fertilizer prices. Being confident in the input decisions we make eliminates the emotion that comes with seeing prices rise so fast.

Nutrient Efficiency-01-01-01


That was a lot of math we worked through in the last point for only one input decision. But, with the right technology and advisor working alongside you, you don’t need to be a math, tech, or data guru to make these decisions every single day. It’s important for you and your advisor to sit down and decide what your goals are moving into the next crop year. From there, determine what you could trial for the coming year. Question whether or not you can still push your fertility and see a return. Or consider backing down your seed in lower productivity areas without sacrificing yield. Perhaps you want to know if that starter rate you’ve been using is doing your crop any good.


Having a trusted advisor help you along the way is a huge asset to your farm operation. Agronomy is complex, but using a software that can combine agronomic factors and delve into the relationships happening in your fields through trialing, customized rec equations for different parts of your field, or visuals of your economic and agronomic data married together can take your operation to the next level. Also, having an advisor that isn’t tied to certain products can increase your level of trust, because their number one goal is to make you a better farmer. Going forward, you’re going to want to have a data partner you can rely on to provide confident, unbiased advice in order for you to achieve higher profitability.


The last surprising thing a lot of people don’t realize when they jump into the precision ag world is that there is never going to be a time we have all the answers. I had a grower last winter ask me, “I can see the immediate benefit of doing business with you but what is my long-term gain?” That is such a great question because it allowed us time to talk about expectations. For years, our founder Dan Frieberg has talked about the rain barrel, and finding the lowest stave that may be hindering your yield. But we often forget that once we have raised that stave, another becomes the lowest. This is a continuous process that we work on with you. There is always some way to improve yield, ROI, or efficiency. We are here to help you find it. Contact us today to get started.

farm efficiency

Use Agronomic and Economic Data to Make Management Decisions

At this time of the year, it’s easy to feel like yields are largely a function of weather – temperature and rainfall. Over the years in hundreds of grower meetings, I’ve heard that sentiment repeatedly. If you are inclined to think that way, think about this scenario.

Imagine a flat 160-acre field in your area, farmed by the same grower for 30 years, is going to be auctioned to the highest bidder. The field is unique in that it is all one soil type ( I know there is no such field in most areas – but we’re pretending so please play along). Pushing for the highest value, the auctioneer splits the field into two side-by-side 80 acre tracts – selling the field fast as two 80’s and then as 160.

The price received as two 80’s is higher, so the next year two different growers farm each of the 80’s. The entire field was soybeans the year before, so both growers planted corn in the first year farming their new purchase. Both will receive the same growing degree units and virtually the exact same rainfall. So, how much yield difference could there be between each of these two 80’s the following harvest?

Screen Shot 2021-08-05 at 2.24.22 PM

Over the years, I’ve used this example with growers in small group meetings and usually the answer is in the 40-50 bushel per acre range – sometimes as high as 75-80 bushels per acre difference!

How can there be that much difference? Simple. It’s because management matters. Our goal at Premier Crop is to encourage you to use your agronomic and economic data to make better management decisions.  With over 20 crop years in the books, we’ve seen it over and over again – similar soils and weather but dramatic differences in results. Usually, it’s not one decision, but the combination of multiple decisions.

Yield by Variety by Soil type-01

When it comes to hybrid and variety selection, it’s common to find 20-30 bushels per acre differences on the same soil type and same weather events. A starting place is to look at your own hybrid and variety performance data by soils – both at a field level and across your entire operation. Your data can be a guide for not only making next year’s hybrid and variety selections, but also where to place specific genetics. The more data you collect, the more you can make data driven decisions. Applied fertility rates, planting dates, planter performance, trait packages, soil test levels, planting populations are examples of some of the critical agronomic decisions you make every year. You might be able to hold Mother Nature accountable for the first 50% or even 75% of your yield results, but the other half (or less) and all the profit is your responsibility.

Farm Analytics Show Valuable Insights

I was meeting with a grower who asked the question, ‘Is the direction of Premier Crop going from a prescription company to an analytics company?’ My answer was: ‘Premier Crop has always been about analytics. We are not only a company known for analytics, but what to do with the information that is received within the data, in those analytics.

I could kill you with paperwork. But really, it’s about the reports and insights that I can take to be able to help growers make better decisions. The report I’m walking through today is our Management Zone Report. This report is almost like a report card for a grower because it showcases the cost per acre in each of the management zones. In this report, you’ll see that we’ve invested more dollars per acre for nutrients and seed. The chemical costs, operations costs, management and land are going to be flat rates, or they’re equal across each of these zones. When we get down to the very bottom of this report, we can see that we’ve invested $48 more in our A zone, our best parts of the field, than in our C zone. When we look at that break-even cost per bushel, or the amount it costs us to produce a bushel of corn, it’s $0.86 cents less in our A zone compared to our C zone, even though we spent more money to produce it. It’s amazing to actually be able to use this report to illustrate to a grower that variable rate does pay.

Let’s do the math on this report. If we’re yielding 200.2 bu/ac bushels in the A zone, and I’m using a selling price of $4.50 for corn, that would bring us to $900.90 of revenue per acre. If we take out our cost per acre of $717.57, that’s going to be $183.33 profit in that A zone versus our C zone yielding 150.9 bu/acre and revenue of $679.05, which is $9.64 revenue per acre. That’s $173.69 more per acre in your A zone.

Katie Farm Analytics Blog-01-2

Now, we an produce reports and pretty graphs, but it’s so much more than that. I’ve always laughed and thought: What other business takes a look at a pretty map or graph and says, “That’s really neat!” and puts it in a 3-ring notebook in their office without doing anything about it? This is where the agronomic advisor should come in, take that data and ask, “What can I do with this?”

Another part of this Management Zone report shows the soil test attributes, applied, and removed nutrients in each of these zones. As an advisor, I can very quickly look and see what the average applied nutrients were in these zones and the actual nutrients that were removed within these zones. With so many inputs (P, K, Seed, etc.) being variable rated, it helps me to get the complete picture and help growers make sense of what happened in their fields and how we can improve next year.

As we’re going into the fall with these fertilizer inputs — and, actually, all inputs — being what they are, growers are going to be concerned. I’ve been telling people for the last month, my worry is that when farmers get shown these prices, they could make some emotional decisions. In fact, those emotional decisions. In fact, those emotional decisions of cutting across every acre could be cutting profitability in the areas where they could be returning the most.

So the question is: how can we take this information to make a better recommendation or a better prescription for next year’s crop.

First, we have to figure out what we actually have control over. There’s so much in the data world and there are certain things we don’t have control over. So, let’s look at the things that we can help growers with. I’m not saying to starve out any area, but instead, reallocate. What does the grower’s pocket book look like for a given field? I chuckle when growers tell me that their yield goals are the same across every field. If you treat every field the same, you can’t tell me that yield goals or, on the flip side, removals, are the same on every field. We’re talking about removals spatially, with that yield file. That’s a huge variance.

When you’re in the combine, and you’re watching the monitor, you see those high areas of the field. Well, those high areas of the field are removing a lot more nutrients than when that monitor hits those red areas on the map. That means if there’s a big difference in yield, there’s a big difference in removals.


Using that removal file as part of a grower’s nutrient plan or recommendation is going to be really big this coming year, in addition to establishing the goal for that field moving forward for this following year. What kind of a goal are we going to have based on input prices? I sent an email to one of my growers last week, and said: ‘We really need to talk in the next 10 days. If prices are going to remain as they are, what are you thinking for fall fertilizer?’ We’re going to need to put some on, what does it look like if prices stay this way? Then, how do we pivot as we move into harvest season and that sort of thing in order to prevent those emotional decisions? Growers with a plan don’t make emotional decisions. They’re a lot more confident and a lot calmer in fall and harvest time.

I share all of this to prove to you that variable rate clearly pays. So, what if you were to flat-rate this whole field? What would this look like? I mean, you would clearly be losing your money in the C zone, more than if you’re over-applying your nutrients. There’s a clear reason that these reports show that the profitability of variable-rate pays. Using something like Premier Crop and looking at the farm analytics is highly beneficial. If you are only using yield as your measure of success, you really don’t know how much money there is out there that you’re missing out on.

crop management

3 Ways to Start Utilizing Your Data

Technology is great… when it works like it’s supposed to. Whether it’s your cell phone, computer or agriculture equipment, we’ve all had our fair share of battles with technology. Like it or not, technology isn’t going away. In fact, it’s going to continue to grow and become even more prevalent in our lives, even in agriculture. We see this every year in agriculture as we continue to add technology to our planters and combines. Monitors continue to become more complex, and tractors are driving themselves. So, where do we go from here?

Here are three ways you can get on board with technology and start utilizing your data to make decisions.

3 ways to utilize farm data


When determining the success of a growing season in farming, yield is one of the first things we refer to. Higher yields equal more bushels, and more bushels equal more money. But what does it take to achieve those higher yields?

For instance, in order to gain a 5% yield increase, you’ll have to increase your input costs by 10%. Is that worth it? Tying input costs to yield is a great way to utilize your on-farm data. Breaking down your total cost per bushel (break-even selling price) is a great place to start when determining profitability in your fields. Take it one step further and break down your break-even price spatially by Management Zone, which allows you to really zone in on different areas of each field to reach your greatest return on investment.

As you can see in the graphic above, at Premier Crop we pride ourselves on diving deeper than the competition and gathering all the information to give you a very detailed report so you can visually see, in each management zone, in each part of your field, how you profit. This helps you make better management decisions using your data.


Every field has variability. Don’t believe me? Look at your yield maps from the last 5 years. More than likely, those maps are not one consistent color, and discarding years of weather damage, the maps are fairly consistent through each year. Using historical yield data to identify areas of your field that are consistently underperforming or over performing is a great way to make use of your data. Some areas of your fields are going to produce differently than others.

At Premier Crop, we start with your historical yield data, putting it together to achieve a relative yield map of all years of yield data for that specific field. This allows us to find areas of the field that are constantly performing above or below the field average. The next step is to determine the limiting factor (or factors) in that area. For underperforming areas, is it something that can be fixed with nutrients, tile, etc.? Or maybe it’s a sandy area that no matter how much nutrients we pump into it, it will always underachieve. For a higher yielding area of the field, the question becomes ‘how hard can we push that area to continue to increase yield while still maximizing our return on investment?’ Once we establish your zones, Learning Blocks are a great way to prove what the best rates are for each zone. This determines more confidence in your management decisions year after year.


We have been running on-farm trials for many years at Premier Crop. We use Learning Blocks to test input rates and seeding populations using a prescription and technology. It’s important to note that there is so much variability across every field, therefore different rates work better in specific parts of your field. One way to prove the best profitable rate or population is to trial by blocks instead of strips. By using a Learning Block, we can strategically place a trial in one zone and compare the results of that block to the immediate surrounding area of the same zone, giving us an accurate result.

Learning Block Example

In the example above we tested two different hybrids to see if lowering the population would be beneficial not only by yield, but economics too. You can see that Hybrid 1, tested a lower population by 1,080 seeds/ac and created a +3.4bu/ac with a profit of $18.91/ac. And lowering Hybrid 2 by 1,009 seeds/ac created a profit loss of -8.4/bu and -$34.39/ac. Therefore, the grower can make an informed decision on this specific management zone in his field that Hybrid 1, at a lower seeding population of 36,078 will help him profit in this zone.

Learning Block Winner-02

At Premier Crop, in addition to the yield results, we tie the economics to the trial to determine the profitability of making that change. This leads to more confident decisions and more profitability on every acre.


Technology can be complicated and frustrating, especially during the busy seasons. The last thing you want to do during planting is stumble through the monitor trying to load a planting prescription. This is where Premier Crop can help. We focus on the data so that you can focus on farming. We handle all of the button clicks and data organization, so when the time comes, you are able to farm without having to worry about setting up your monitor or capturing good data. At the end of the year, we compile all of the data we have collected on your farm, create reports, and meet with you. Together, we take a look at areas that did really well, as well as areas we could change for the next growing season in order to continuously maximize your profit.

As technology continues to evolve, there will be more and more opportunities to utilize our on-farm data. At Premier Crop we continue to monitor the technology changes in agriculture year after year, and help you adopt and adapt to these changes in your operation. Contact us now to get in touch with an advisor in your area.

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