Good data is the cornerstone of zone management. Management zones must be identified and not created, advised presenter Isaac Ferrie at the 2015 Farm Journal Corn College in Heyworth, Ill.
Factoring error-laden data or incorrect numbers throws an operation into reverse. Ferrie recommends growers begin data collection by pulling uniform soil samples at a consistent depth and noted location. “Starting in a bad spot and coming back is going to cause problems. You have to choose an indicative place in the field when you pull soil samples.”
Ideally, large soil types should be broken into three to seven acre management plots. Ferrie points to soil type maps as a base for zone management, but only when they accurately reflect field variation. When soil zones don’t resemble yield maps, yield monitors must be calibrated correctly. Yield monitors should be calibrated for precision, rather than accuracy. A precisely calibrated yield map is invaluable toward a zone management plan.
Knowing which field areas bring less yield is useful, but recognizing the causes behind diminished yield is vital toward creating a management plan, according to Ferrie. “Quality data is crucial because we’re making management zone decisions based on that information and these zones will have an impact for the next five to 10 years. The data is the foundation of all our decisions going forward and if we allow in poor data, the results will be off for years down the road.”