This article was written by Kinsie Rayburn, Conservation Knowledge Officer, Trust In Food. You can learn more at: www.trustinfood.com https://bit.ly/Farm-Data-TIF
Would you like to use your farm data to improve your management and agronomic decisions but don’t know where to start? If so, good news: there are numerous data solutions available that can help you capture data from on-farm management decisions such as seed choice, irrigation scheduling, fertilizer inputs, ear-marking the start of a practice change, documenting annual changes in productivity and yields, and more. With this data in hand, you can compare decisions across seasons to see what works best for you and your operation.
Here are five ways you can start or improve your data-capturing efforts and, by using your own farm data, take some of the guesswork out of decisions you make each day, month and year:
1. Develop a clear picture of your data-collection needs. What do you want to get out of your data-collection method? What would mean the most for your farm? Make a list of data you want to capture, such as: seed selection, irrigation needs, acreage, the crops you produce or plan to, any practice changes you are contemplating, and consider what kind of information will help the next generation farm the same area with the same or greater succes
2. Talk to your farm network. Ask around to farmers and the crop advisors, insurers, ag agents, and ag retailers you know and ask what they use to manage their farm data. Start with operations similar to yours and work out from there. If your farm size and crop production differ from your farmer colleagues, it is likely that your data-collection needs will, too.
3. Go online and look around. The internet can be a great resource when thinking about the data management approach that is best for you and your operation. Some are free, some come at a cost. Some software options require additional equipment and some only require a smartphone or tablet. Also, check to see if the software solution you’re looking at has offline capabilities—internet connections don’t exactly reach every field.
4. Make a decision. Use the information you gather to choose an option to start with. This could be something as simple as a blank spreadsheet or document or something a little more complex like a smartphone app. Test out your chosen data capturing solution by putting it to the test.
5. Use the data. Collecting data is all well and good, but it has to be useful in helping make informed on-farm decisions. Note your yields, field entry dates, harvest times, and input costs and think about where you can improve.
If you are interested in learning more about the research Trust In Food has done with capturing farmer perspectives on data, you can check out the full report here.