Video: Mapping potential profits using satellite data

GIS mapping | Data from soils and yield mapping can be used to determine if it is economically beneficial to fix problems

Field mapping has turned from telling tales about soil quality, topography, salinity and yield to proclaiming profitability.

Precision field maps, with their multi-coloured measurements, are well known to most farmers, despite only being used by a minority of growers.

Kevin Pattison’s field maps have taken on the colours of money. The Alberta precision agronomist is putting a new analysis system through its early paces with farmers and agronomists that are partnered with Agritrend.

Provided the farmers have collected and entered enough data, or have a good idea of their cost of production numbers, Agritrend can now map their managed fields based on financial returns.

The Agridata system allows farmers to track all of their operational costs inside the company’s Field Manager software. When combined with the yield and other mapped data and a projected or actual price for the commodity, the software will plot the profitability of every pixel in the map.

“You can see the potential profit, or loss per acre. And you can decide whether it is worth fixing and if you are making the right crop choices,” he said.

Producers can simulate cost/benefit effects based on the known information about the fields, creating a better educated guess about how a particular investment in fertilizer or fungicide might pay off or whether adding gypsum or lime to a field will truly pay.

It would also help them determine if the poor yielding area should be left to under-perform and the same invested dollars would pay off better on already more productive land.

Yield maps are critical to the process and “can still be a bit of challenge for some growers running several combines in the same fields,” but with a little time or the assistance of a precision agriculture specialist that data can be smoothed out to create accurate picture.

Once a map is made, with anomalous highs and lows cut out, a visual check of the known data can be done by the farmer though viewing a histogram graphic.

That set of bar graphs shows off the number of bushels produced from each zone within the field.

“Eighty percent of the yield in most fields comes from the top performing zones. If the histogram tells you something that seems odd, there is likely a problem with the data. You need to take a closer look and fix the data,” he said.

So far the company has five of its agronomists working with the new profitability mapping software and Pattison said they will activate trials for customers.

The profitability maps show at a glance the areas of the field where the most money is made per acre and where the money pits exist.

“Profits are made buy building margins on those acres. With this you can see them,” he said.

“We haven’t taken it to a full release yet. We haven’t figured out what the charge will be yet, but there will be an extra fee for the service,” he said during the Agritrend Farm Forum in Saskatoon last week.

Ryan Goodwin an agronomist with South Country Equipment in Regina said this type of map solution is one more reason for producers to start collecting yield data from their combines.

“The equipment is capable of collecting the data. The files are large and will need to be managed at some point, but there is the opportunity for greater profitability if you have the information captured,” he said.

A show of hands amongst farmers attending the seminar indicated that more than 60 percent had the ability to collect site specific yield data, but less than 20 percent were capturing it.

About 10 percent indicated that they were actually using the data in their farm management regime.

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