Tuesday 21 February 2017

Tips for Capturing Yield Data this Harvest

Do you have a yield monitor in your header? Do you use it? Do you want help to extract value from the data? These are some of the first questions we are asking growers this time of year. With the mad rush on to get the crop off the paddock the yield monitor is one thing that is easily forgotten and seldom used to its full potential. Many growers have paid for the technology but aren’t able to harness the power of the information that it provides.
Yield monitor showing real time recordings
One of the key points that isn’t stressed enough to growers that have yield monitors is that they should capture the data regardless if they want to use it or not. Having multiple years of data is immensely more useful than one year of data. Multiple years of data means results that have seasonality factors removed. This process is call normalisation. Data is put into a relative scale and is compared across the years. Once data is normalised then we are able to identify common zones or production areas. These zones can be marked for future management decisions.
The difference between raw and processed data. 
Processing or “cleaning” the data is the key to successfully utilising the captured data. Raw yield points have a large amount of errors and “noise” that can significantly impact on the results. With these noisy bits removed and tidied up the data becomes more representative of the paddock. Some of the factors that impact on the data accuracy are cut width, flow delay and travel distance errors.

A processed yield map
Yield data can also be useful for identifying problems during the actual harvest of the crop. In one example a grower saw the results of him harvesting grass seed in the hottest part of the day. He was able to spot the mistake as recorded yield dropped in the swaths that he completed in the hottest temperatures. Ultimately the yield information informed him that the decision had cost him.

Some tips to consider

  • Make sure that the paddock names and IDs are correct on the monitor before you start the paddock.
  • Utilise labels or tags to help identify different operations.
  • Avoid overwriting data from previous years. Make sure that the data is separated by year.
  • Back up the data regularly! Utilise the free cloud services such as Dropbox or Google Drive to save a copy. 

Yield data is the final measure of a seasons worth of effort. Yield data allows for insights into different management practices and the old adage “what gets measured gets managed” comes to mind.  

Post by Nick.

Monday 13 February 2017

Why my soil moisture sensor might be lying to me?

After choosing the type of moisture sensor you are going to invest in, the most crucial thing is to get the installation correct. It goes back to the old adage; rubbish in rubbish out, if you don’t get the installation correct everything that follows will at best be very marginal data.

Most probes are measuring a very small volume of soil within 10-20mm of the sensor itself, so good soil contact is imperative as well as a crop cover around the probe that is representative of the rest of the field being monitored.

If you are looking at installing a probe for next season or looking at maintenance on an existing probe then read on! These few basic does and don’ts will be of good use!


  • Don't leave the excess cables on the ground – it is an accident waiting to happen!
  • Don’t leave exposed cables for wildlife that want to see how tasty it is!
  • Don’t site the probe on a ridge or in a hollow!
  • Don’t site the probe in bare soil. Is there a crop growing over the probe site to give you a true representation of what is happening in the rest of the field? 
  • Don’t site under the fence line
Don't leave cables on the ground

  • Ensure you use good consistency of slurry around the probe to ensure good soil contact.
  • Ensure you know the soil type your moisture sensor is located in and how that compares to the rest of the area you are monitoring.
  • Make sure any tramlines or irrigation tracks miss the probe site by metres rather than millimetres!
  • If your probe is near an electric fence, do ensure any metalwork is earthed.
  • Do install the probe as early in the season as you can, so it has time to bed in and the crop over the top of it time to establish like the rest of the field.
  • Do ensure a competent and trained person installs the probe with the right equipment to do so!
  • If checking an old installation make sure there are no cracks around the probe site, the soil around the probe hasn’t sunk and the wires are in good order.

AquaLINK telemetry unit, away from AquaCheck probe out in the paddock
If you have any doubts about the site or installation of your probe, by installing it as early in the season as you can means that it can be moved and still have the winter to bed in again.
AquaCheck WEB, induvial sensor graph responding to irrigation and rain events.
Monitor your probe data and its response to rain or irrigation events, the beauty of the capacitance probes is that moving them is not an issue.

This article contains information from a post previously written by HydroServices but has been updated to include the experience from the Agri Optics team installing AquaCheck probes.