What Can You Learn at Harvest? 6 Questions to Ask As the Combine Rolls

In some areas of North America, harvest is already underway; for others, those activities are fast approaching. This is a culmination for farmers: a time to see what your hard work and investment—along with some occasional worrying—has produced. 

But harvest season isn’t just about yields. This is a perfect opportunity to evaluate the decisions you made throughout the year.

Questions to ask yourself during harvest

Take time as you roll through the fields to jot down any details about this year’s production while they are fresh in your mind. No detail is insignificant, and most will be valuable for future planning. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you begin harvest this year:

1. How did my seed selection meet expectations for this field?

Consider all the traits and characteristics you selected for, including any GMO traits, plant population, early vigor, disease tolerance, standability, etc. Did you need everything in the bag or could you have done without some traits? Could conventional seed have achieved the same yield level at a lesser cost per acre?

2. What weeds, diseases or insect damage were present?

Identify the weeds, diseases and insect damage present at harvest. Considering the pesticide program used, was control acceptable? Could anything have been done differently to obtain a better result? And would generics have saved some input dollars? Is it time to utilize some different actives or modes of action? Look out for stalk rots and check grain quality to ensure that disease and insects weren’t a bigger issue than you originally expected.

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3. Did my fertility program make the grade?

Examine the plants and the grain being harvested. Was the fertility program adequate throughout the season and did it produce quality grain? Were any nutrient deficiencies identified, and would your farm have benefited from tissue testing throughout the growing season? Also, make sure that your crop is getting the nutrients it needs at the times when it needs them the most. 

4. How did the recommended nutrients impact my soil? 

An annual soil test should be done at the same time each year to ensure proper fertility for the crop to be grown. Soil tests can also aid in locating areas with issues that need to be corrected. 

5. Did my equipment do what my farm needed?

Machinery that is worn out, or not properly calibrated, can have an impact on your planting and harvest. Using the wrong equipment can lead to compaction and other soil issues. Did the equipment you have do an acceptable job during cultivation, planting, spraying and harvesting? Would replacing or updating equipment improve on-farm efficiency or soil health? Could there be a tax advantage to purchasing new equipment?

6. Did I purchase the right crop insurance policy and coverage? 

Crop insurance is part of your overall risk management plan. Consider if there are any changes you should make for 2021. Know the options that are available to you, and if necessary, get a second opinion.

Evaluate your fields separately to get the most out of your acres. Check with your agronomist and your neighbors to see what worked—and what didn’t—on farms in your area. Proper chemistry selection leads to increased pesticide efficacy, and substantial savings could be a reality in many fields. Your observations will be a valuable tool in making cropping plans for 2021 and beyond. 

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