Set Your Mark for Yields

January 20, 2009 06:00 PM

Sara Muri, AgWeb Crops Online Editor
Have you set your yield goal yet? What do you think your fields will produce? What do you hope they will produce? Determining the realistic yield production of a field is the first move to bin-busting yields.
Charles Shapiro, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension soils and nutrient management specialist, says setting a realistic yield goal helps farmers make good decisions on corn hybrids, seeding rates, fertilizer applications and irrigation needs.
What is a "realistic” goal?
To determine the best yield goal for your fields, Shapiro says, you need to calculate several factors, such as location, the length of the growing season and field history. "You look at the biological maximums, given the genetics available,” Shapiro says. This is assuming there are nutrients and water available, he notes.
Shapiro says most farmers have a pretty good idea of what, on average, a field produces. So he suggests taking the five-year average yields for a field, then adding 10%. "This should get you pretty close to a realistic yield goal,” he says.
Why are goals important?
Having a plan for production helps farmers push their production limits and profits, Shapiro says. Based on research by the University of Nebraska, he says it is more costly to underpredict your yields than to overpredict.
Added Profit:
  1. Decreasing a yield goal that was 10 bu/ac too high: $7.50/ac1
  2. Increasing a yield goal that was 10 bu/ac too low: $42.50/ac2
1 The added profit calculations refer to situations in which the yield goal was over or underestimated by 5%, which is commonly observed. On average, this amounts to about 10 bu/ac of corn. If we assume a corn price of $5.00/bu and a nitrogen price of $0.75/lb, decreasing a too-high yield goal results in a nitrogen fertilizer savings of about $7.50/acre (10 lbs N/ac less at $0.75/lb N).
2 If we assume a corn price of $5.00/bu and an N price of $0.75/lb N, increasing a too-low yield goal by 5% (10 bu/ac) results in $42.50/ac added profit due to higher yield ($50/ac at $5.00/bu corn), which requires slightly more fertilizer (10 lbs N/ac more at $0.75/lb N).

Source: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Shapiro says setting a challenging but realistic yield goal also helps farmers in their nutrient management. By knowing what nutrients are needed, farmers can adjust their applications as necessary. "You need to have the nutrients there so everything else can fall in place,” he says.
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You can e-mail Sara Muri at


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