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Calibrated yield monitors could increase profits

Article cover photo
A properly calibrated yield monitor is a valuable tool to help farmers locate field areas that are more profitable. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Scott Nelson, ISA On-Farm Network® Director

The yield monitor is a valuable tool in the farmer’s arsenal for increased profitability. A new Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) research project seeks to match the information provided through yield monitors to determine profitability zones.

The project includes collaboration with a commercial firm along with ISA’s Analytics team. ISA researchers can create spatial maps of profitability calculated from yield monitor data. The project will include a comparison of whole farm profitability for variable rate and for fixed rate applications to learn which is more profitable. Using this information, farmers could determine which areas of the field are the most and least profitable. Then, they could determine how to best focus their inputs and dollars toward areas of the field that are most profitable.

Annual monitor maintenance

Data provided through the yield monitor can be useful to farmers, but like any tool, it requires some yearly maintenance for best results. Calibrating a yield monitor takes time and can be tedious but is essential for any data usage goal. Experts recommend that yield monitors be calibrated using a minimum of five grain flow rates. This should include low and very high yields to assure the tool can measure field variation accurately. Without careful calibration, yield monitors will not measure ultra-low and ultra-high yields in crop fields. A carefully calibrated yield monitor is expected to be within 2 to 3 percent of a weighed value.

Data collected from yield monitors can be used several ways. Some farmers realize savings and possible yield increases through variable rate application prescriptions that are based on nutrient removal. Yield monitor data calculations drive these variable rate prescriptions.

Another way to use yield monitor data is to create profitability zones across farm fields. This is achieved by mathematical manipulations of yield monitor data to reflect profit. Using a spatial map of areas in the field that are most and least profitable enables the farmer to make wiser input decisions. In some cases, farmers dramatically reduce inputs on sub-field areas that are not profitable, realizing a savings in input costs.

Technology is developing rapidly to simplify and deliver new tools farmers can use with their yield history. Farmers who do not use their yield history could be missing out on significant opportunities if yield data collection isn’t accurate.

To participate in the ISA project, email the research team:

Contact Scott Nelson at

For media inquiries, please contact Katie James, ISA Public Relations Manager at or Aaron Putze, ISA Communications Director at

For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at Iowa Soybean Association | 1255 SW Prairie Trail Pkwy | Ankeny | IA | 50023 | US

©2018 Iowa Soybean Association On-Farm Network®. All rights reserved. On-Farm Network® is a registered trademark of the Iowa Soybean Association, Ankeny, IA.Portions of some On-Farm Network trials are paid for in total or in part by the soybean checkoff.