Tracking Quality at the Field Level

While quality has been long understood as a critical driver of profitability in specialty crop operations, it’s been overlooked from a planning and tracking perspective on the commodity side—until now, when margins are so thin. In today’s market, it can be just as important driver of revenue as yield.
Some farmers track quality metrics in spreadsheets, which can make it difficult to draw any conclusions and formulate plans. As a result, quality metrics are generally regarded as nice to have. Why? Because it’s very hard to draw strong correlations between specific operational practices and improved quality.
You can only really start doing anything about crop quality once you have the full picture of what’s going on in your operation—at crop, field and farm levels. Here’s a start:
1. Systematically collect and organize data. The first step is to collect all of the relevant weather, soil, and operational informational for a particular field in one single place so that data is easy to access, compare and manipulate.
2. Look for meaningful relationships. When trying to figure out what drives the highest quality for a particular crop, it’s critical to take into account all of the possible variables and evaluate them separately. Then, look for correlations and create different scenarios that represent your operation.
3. Isolate the biggest drivers of quality and build your operational plans around them. Perform operational analysis to identify practices that increase quality. If a particular practice does not drive performance, it is important to think about saving that expense and switching focus to higher value activities.
Planning for and predicting quality metrics begins with a solid data set and relies on having the ability to understand the financial implications of agronomic decisions at a field level. Understanding what drives quality, can become an important decision-making tool in your arsenal during a time where every small decision matters.

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