Harvest is one of the most busy times of year on the farm. It can also be the most stressful, with new people on the farm, temperamental kit and long hours to contend with (not to mention the weather!)
This year’s harvest has brought the additional challenges of working with Covid-19 restrictions and the possibility of inexperienced staff working on farms for the first time.
Good planning and communication will help mitigate these challenges, helping work run more smoothly and saving time in the long run. In this article we will talk about how you can use farm mapping, field job planning, satellite imagery, yield recording and location sharing for a safe and successful harvest.
fieldmargin lets you record yields in the field and easily analyse results so you have all the data at your fingertips, whether keeping track of this year’s harvest or making improvements for next season.
Here are 10 ways to help your harvest run smoothly
1. Use mobile maps to let people know where everything is
Harvest time means lots of new people (contractors, students, seasonal harvest workers) on the farm who aren’t familiar with it. To avoid spending time explaining where each field is and how to get there, provide a clear map with the names of all your fields and buildings and important information on how to get around.
With fieldmargin you can easily map all this information and then share with everyone in the team by inviting them to your farm (here’s how). People can then view the farm using the app on their mobile phone so you don’t have to worry about printouts getting lost.
For example, on our farm we have ditches separating many of the fields rather than fences or hedges so it’s not obvious where the crossing points are and is useful to have them marked on.
You can even get directions to the field by road. Perfect if you are working across several farms or have a very large or spread out farm. Learn more on getting navigation instructions to your fields here.
2. Set and share harvest plans with Field Jobs
Make a plan of what order you will want to harvest in, thinking about when fields were drilled, how things will be organised in the store and areas that are prone to getting wet that could become impossible to travel on in poor conditions. You can do this in fieldmargin using Field Jobs. This way it will be accessible to all of your team, progress can quickly be shared and amends made.
For example if you are harvesting Wheat in August:
- Select “Add a field job”
- Set Harvesting as the job type on your field job
- Select the fields to be harvested
- Add an output called “Wheat” and set the unit as tonnes
- Add a planned date for harvest
- Tag team members so it becomes part of there to-do list
We understand plans are not concrete at harvest time, weather and breakdowns means you have to be flexible. Even if you can’t stick to it all the time having a plan will make you feel more in control and help to stay organised if things go awry. You can always easily edit the due date of a job.
3. Keep in touch with your team
With so many moving parts, communication is essential to keep things running smoothly.
Use comments on Field Jobs to keep everyone updated with important information such as moisture levels, how things are looking in the store, servicing progress or when you will need someone to come and pick up a load from the combine. You can even add photographs.
Make sure all your team has notifications turned on so everyone can keep in touch (read how here).
4. Record crop yields while you are in the field
No need to wait until you get back to the office to record your harvest data. Ensure accuracy by recording them and sharing them with your team as they happen. This will also reduce the time spent making phone calls to check in on progress and the time spend on administration updating records.
Following on from the example that we set above for harvesting wheat:
- Open the Harvesting job
- Tap “Mark complete”
- Tap “Set yield”
- Add your yield per field, the yield in t/ha will automatically be calculated
- Use reports to check total yields and variation across fields
Now you can view your field data from anywhere on your mobile device or computer. This comes in handy for any meetings with consultants, advisors or audits.
5. Keep an eye on the weather
We hardly need to tell you this but what you might not have realised is that you can view the weather forecast for your farm right in the fieldmargin web app.
Whether it’s climate change in action or just the normal run of things, weather patterns seem to be becoming more extreme across the range from cold and wet, too warm and dry. The recent dry condition and then heavy rainfall in the UK have combined to present a bigger challenge than normal.
Our weather is powered by Dark Sky, a start-up which describes itself as using “robots to predict the weather with down-to-the-minute precision”. You can read the technical details of how the forecasting works here. T his shows temperature, wind speed and direction, cloud cover, humidity, visibility and dew point. You can also open it out to view a rain radar which shows rain that is headed in your direction and when.
6 Analyse your yields on our web platform
When you record a yield fieldmargin automatically calculates your yield/ha and tracks your total yields per crop, per field and for the whole farm.
Yield graphs in reporting make it easy to identify high and low yielding fields across your farm. No need to deal with complex spreadsheets. This is valuable as you look ahead to the next season and consider what changes you might make to your cropping plans or treatments.
7. Monitor harvest progress with Field Health
You can use field health satellite imagery to monitor harvest progress even when you are not in the field. Field Health imagery shows crop vegetation levels on the farm using NDVI analysis. Green shows high levels of green plant matter and red show low vegetation, dead plants or bare earth.
As crops senesce they will change from appearing as green to orange or red. This means that you can see harvest readiness for crops such as cereals.
Imagery is updated every week so you can see when crops have been harvested.
“The satellite maps work great for me. On each image, I can clearly see which alfalfa fields have been cut. With 7000 ha to manage the satellite imagery can be used to monitor the progress of the crop growth and harvest.”Jaco Theron, Farm manager, Arizona
8. Upload your yield maps
If your combine harvester has yield mapping built in make sure that it is set up and correctly calibrated so that you can use the data to identify and quantify problematic areas of your fields that you can investigate over the coming growing season. Otherwise make notes as accurately as you can on your yield of each field and areas where you notice the crop looks poor.
Our Map Uploader tool allows you to take yield maps that you have of your farm and digitise them so that they can easily be referred to alongside your other farming records and be stored safely. These can be shared with everyone in your farm on mobile and web. You can also add notes to annotate the reason behind any low yielding areas or to suggest treatments for next season.
9. Map weeds and improve control for next season
Taking big bits of kit through fields with weeds in seed is a fantastic way to spread them across your whole farm. You can reduce the likelihood of this by mapping the areas where you have particularly bad weed problems (yes, I mean your blackgrass field!) and using it to plan the order of fields to harvest. You can map weeds on fieldmargin using the gps tool by walking around them (here’s how).
Weeds maps can really have an impact on control next season. Try to harvest clean fields first so you don’t bring seeds from your bad fields into the good ones. If that’s not possible then be extra diligent cleaning your machinery after harvesting a field with a severe weed problem.
10. Don’t forget Health and Safety
Harvest is one of the most hazardous times of year on farms. With so much going on, long hours and time pressure it’s easy to be tempted to take short cuts.
Make a hazard map to ensure that everyone is aware of key dangers around the farm, particularly low hanging power lines. You can map these out using fieldmargin using features so the information is available in context when needed.
Make sure everyone has a mobile phone and that they keep it charged and with them at all times (not left in the cab!) so that if something does go wrong they can get help. You can use fieldmargin’s team radar feature to share team members location on the farm. This means that if they are in trouble and unable to call for help it will be easier to find them.
You can also set up or upload machinery checklists on fieldmargin. The last thing you want is to be stuck in the field with a broken down machine (or worse) so make sure everything is serviced and ready to go. Many combine fires are caused by dust build up or the failure of small moving parts so spending the extra time on cleaning and checks could make all the difference.
Yield Recording is available on our Essentials plan (£3.75/month) and above. You can find more information on our pricing and plans here.
You can also find out more about our feature on our website www.fieldmargin.com
Did we miss something? If you’ve got tips on how you make your harvest as easy and safe as possible we’d love to hear from you. Share your suggestions in the comments down below or email us firstname.lastname@example.org.