Each year growers are faced with the choice of selecting seed that will help them achieve their operational goals. While there is typically a lot of data available to help make those decisions, it may be unclear what it all means or how to use it. To help, T.J. Strachota, Dairyland Seed Marketing Leader, and Ryan Mueller, Dairyland Seed Agronomy Leader, explain why reliable data is so important and provide ways to avoid “data exhaustion.”
Why the Emphasis on Data?
Strachota explains that the emphasis on data is two-fold, “We're trying to gather as much data as possible to make the best product recommendations for our lineups and the best recommendations to help customers achieve their goals.”
To provide growers with an accurate picture of how the seed will perform, Strachota says it is important to collect data from multiple sources, including:
- Company plots to see how seed genetics perform in a controlled setting.
- On-farm plots to see how specific products perform in real-world growing environments.
- Third-party trials, such as university and F.I.R.S.T. trials, to have an unbiased take on the products and to see performance against competitors.
Strachota adds that by utilizing data from multiple sources, customers can receive the necessary information to make a balanced decision.
Finding Valuable Data
When it comes to finding value among all the data coming from seed companies, Mueller encourages growers to look at the crops they are collecting data on. He explains that it's easy to collect data on corn and soybeans, but it is more difficult to collect data on silage and alfalfa because those crops require specialized equipment to collect the information.
“Having access to that equipment is unique and that advantage puts more data into the hands of growers to make better decisions,” Strachota says.
Additionally, Mueller notes that turnaround time is key because seed companies want to get data analyzed and back in the hands of growers as fast as possible. A well-organized company will have staff dedicated to handling and analyzing data on a daily basis, allowing them to get data out at a faster pace.
Overcoming Data Exhaustion
When it comes to managing data, Strachota cautions, “There's so much data available that if you try to incorporate every aspect of the data pie out there, you're going to run yourself ragged.”
To help growers manage their on-farm data, Mueller and Strachota recommend using a data management tool or yield mapping software, like Granular. These tools take data and analyze it to produce yield maps, track diseases, analyze hybrids, run economic comparisons and more. Strachota says those tools will be instrumental in making growers more aware of what's happening on their operations.
To sort through all the data from outside the farm, Strachota says the best thing growers can do is align themselves with trusted data sources that help them make the best decisions.
To Mueller, trust is established when products do what they are advertised to do. And that trust is reinforced by the agronomy team communicating to customers what a product does and doesn't do well.
Data isn't going away any time soon. In fact, it will only be coming at growers faster. However, the way it is used and displayed will evolve. Mueller explains that the future of data is all about visualization, and researchers are currently developing new tools to improve data-driven decision making.
“The days of plowing through reports and Excel files are short numbered,” Mueller states. “We need to find ways to share data quickly so we can look at it, understand it and move on.”