Ep. 54: The Importance of Ag Data with Joshlin Yoder
Ep. 54: The Importance of Ag Data with Joshlin Yoder
If you had asked Joshlin Yoder earlier this summer how harvest might pan out, he might have had a bleaker answer than the one he has now. But as he sits in the combine harvesting soybeans, he’ll give you a more optimistic and grateful response.
“We caught just enough rain at the right times that overall, we’re going to have above-average beans and well above-average corn,” says Joshlin Yoder, a row crop and cattle farmer in northeast Missouri and Precision Ag Reviews ambassador.
While Joshlin can be excited about the harvest numbers on his farm, he knows that not all farmers have had the same luck this growing season.
“We’re going through an exciting, but challenging time in agriculture,” says Joshlin. “And making sure we’re positioned well to be able to handle those tough scenarios is important.”
One of the ways Joshlin makes critical decisions for his operation is through precision technology.
Yet, when we think of precision agriculture, we might think of autonomous tractors or drone sprayers. But for Joshlin, ag tech on his farm looks more like data.
While various technologies can help with the efficiencies and conveniences of farming, like auto steering, for example, Joshlin says that the longer he’s been farming, the more he believes that the data he collects is the most important aspect of using precision technology on his farm.
“Because of the data we collect, we are able to use it to help us make better decisions within all aspects of the operation,” states Joshlin. “From the seeds we choose to the planting populations and the rates of the chemicals, the data we collect is the most valuable portion of what we do and how we can continue to improve on what we’re doing in agriculture.”
For Joshlin, yield data has made the most impact on his farm.
By combining yield data with soil maps, Joshlin uses that information to help him determine variable rate prescriptions for fertilizer and variable rate populations for corn.
“Data lets us do a lot of research,” explains Joshlin. “And the yield is a great way to determine what is working best for us in a lot of different aspects.”
This data allowed Joshlin to experiment with planting populations this past planting season. He lowered his average soybean planting population and pushed a small trial area from 140,000 down to an 80,000 planting population.
Outsourcing Data Management
Experimenting is nothing new for Joshlin. He’s also done fertilizer and fungicide trials – all with the help of an expert to collect and analyze data. “It makes it very convenient and easy for us to see the results of the different things we’re trying,” says Joshlin.
Joshlin says that turning the reigns of data collection and analysis over to a trusted partner has been a lifesaver.
As farmers, Joshlin relates that “our number one objective is to get the work done. Whether it’s planting a crop, getting it sprayed, fertilized, or harvested, we’re so focused on the actual operation that sometimes it’s easy just to let things slide when it comes to analyzing the data.”
To make sure he is correctly gathering data and putting it into a format that he can use to help him make decisions, Joshlin says outsourcing this has made his job that much easier.
Here’s a glance at this episode:
[02:09] Joshlin shares how corn and soybean harvest is going for his operation.
[03:28] Joshlin explains how they got an early start on corn harvest and the moisture counts they’ve been getting.
[05:38] Placing priority on soil health, Joshlin shares how they utilize cover crops and their primary cover crop plant.
[07:49] Joshlin discusses why he believes the data they collect is the most important aspect of using precision technology on their farm.
[09:56] Discussing soybean population trials, Joshlin reveals how low they pushed their planting population in a small trial strip.
[11:09] Joshlin explains why it’s important to collect and use data to make decisions and why hiring someone to do this for you is beneficial.
[12:53] With automation and robotics being hot topics in ag tech, Joshlin shares how these technologies might play a role in the future of his operation.
[14:48] Joshlin leaves with what he’s looking forward to in 2023 and what one piece of technology he’s most excited about.
Joshlin Yoder is from northeast Missouri, where he farms alongside his dad and brother. They run a row crop operation producing corn and soybeans. Joshlin also has a beef cattle operation. He graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in agricultural education and joined the day-to-day operations of the farm in 2008. Together with his wife and four kids, they are heavily involved in the farm and agriculture.
Welcome to Precision Points, an Ag Tech podcast where we plant seeds of innovation to inspire informed decisions about precision technology and its impact for growers like you. We explore precision ag tools and technology, from the soil to the sky, with your host Morgan Seger.
Morgan Seger (00:22):
Welcome back to Precision Points, an Ag Tech podcast from precisionagreviews.com. I'm your host, Morgan Seger. And in each episode, we strive to bring you ag tech information and ideas. Today on the show, I am joined by one of our ambassadors, Joshlin Yoder. As we went through the growing season, you may have seen things pop up about his family farm across our page. We really appreciate all that he has contributed.
Morgan Seger (00:46):
Joshlin and his wife Addie are grain farmers in northeast Missouri, and they also have a cattle business. Today, I actually catch him in the combine as he is harvesting soybeans, and we spend time talking about the growing season, and our conversation really varies from trials they had on their farm to managing the volatility we're seeing in the marketplace today. And what technologies he's most excited about. So here's my conversation with Joshlin.
Morgan Seger (00:12)
Joshlin, welcome back to Precision Points.
Joshlin Yoder (01:14):
Morgan Seger (01:15):
So I'm catching you in the combine, is that right?
Joshlin Yoder (01:18):
That is correct. We are in the middle of bean harvest right now. And we've got two combines rolling, and we're trying to see how we can get along today.
Morgan Seger (01:27):
Gotcha. Well, I appreciate you taking the time to catch up with us. For our audience, Joshlin was part of our ambassador program. So as you follow along on Facebook, Twitter, or on our blog, you have probably seen some posts about his family farm this summer. So first of all, I just want to say thank you for sharing the content that you have been sharing this summer. It's been fun to kind of watch that come together.
Joshlin Yoder (01:50):
Hey, that's no problem. It's actually fun to think about what we're doing on the farm and try to make a conscious effort to document some of the things that take place. And it just gives a guy a good appreciation for all of the different things that we really do throughout the year on a row crop farm.
Morgan Seger (02:09):
I'm sure there are so many things that we just take for granted when we get into the grind, that when you take time to think about it, actually could be pretty impactful to share. This growing season, just catch me up. How are things looking out there?
Joshlin Yoder (02:22):
Overall on the backside, harvest is fun, because we get to see the results of all of the efforts that we put into the year. And overall, the results are really pretty good for us. The growing season had its ups and downs. We definitely had some dry periods. But I guess we caught just enough rain at the right times that, overall, we're going to have above-average beans and well above-average corn. So if you would've asked me in the middle of August what I thought the prospects were, I would've been a lot more pessimistic than the way they are turning out.
Morgan Seger (02:55):
Good. Well, I'm glad to hear that. And I did see that on your birthday, maybe, you had posted that you got some rain there at the end of August. So that must have been a timely rain for you.
Joshlin Yoder (03:03):
It was very timely. The beans really were in desperate need of it, and it must have caught most of them just soon enough to help them. No, we're not having record-breaking yields by any means. But they are above average. Again, in the middle of August, I said I would've told you there was no chance, as dry and hot as we were.
Morgan Seger (03:21):
Yeah, well, that's awesome. So you shared that your corn was doing well, too. Have you guys finished up with corn harvest?
Joshlin Yoder (03:28):
We got started maybe towards the middle of September with corn harvest. And we shelled pretty hard for two and a half weeks until the beans got ready. And then we switched gears and started cutting beans. And so we've got about two-thirds of the corn out already. Unless we get some poor weather that doesn't make for very good bean cutting, we will stay with beans until we get these done. And for us, we have the ability to dry corn. So that's what let us get in, and get started earlier than what some of our neighbors might have. We have a facility set up with a continuous-flow dryer. So we could get in and shell some corn when it was in the mid-twenties. And get started with it and dry it down. And that allowed us to get a really nice start into the corn harvest.
Morgan Seger (04:11):
Good. I'm glad to hear that. And yeah, it makes sense to take the beans when you can get them. What moisture are they running at?
Joshlin Yoder (04:17):
We had some all the way down to 8% just a couple of days ago. But what we're cutting today is right at 13. So this is a longer maturity bean than what we were cutting to start off with. And so these are about ideal. They're actually cutting a little bit tougher than the other ones were. So we aren't making as good of a time. But that's just part of it. When harvest goes, it's not all going to go perfectly, and smoothly, and everything along the way. So you have to take some of the more challenging aspects with some of the really good aspects as well.
Morgan Seger (04:52):
I think that's a great mindset. I was surprised just talking with people across the country, about how low the moisture got on some of the beans really quickly. So that's why I was wondering about that.
Joshlin Yoder (05:03):
When we started, they were probably in the 12% range. And as we went along on that first maturity bean, just like I said, on Monday, we were cutting them, and they were down to 8%. We actually had just two or three-tenths of rain, which helped us out when we were able to get back in the field yesterday afternoon. They'd picked up a little bit of moisture. And cutting 8% beans isn't much fun, because they shatter really badly. Plus, you're losing some yield because you've lost so much of the moisture. The weight's actually a little bit less too. So that was a nice little shower that didn't keep us out of the field very long, but definitely is helping with the process of getting these beans harvested.
Morgan Seger (05:38):
Glad to hear that. So as we think about this growing season, when you were on episode 48, you talked about how soil health was really important for your operation. Is there anything that you did this growing season that you felt impacted that, or things that you're thinking about for next year, on how you're going to continue to try to improve your soil health?
Joshlin Yoder (06:01):
Well, I think cover crops are the buzzword in the industry right now when it comes to soil health, regenerative ag, or sustainability. And so, as I mentioned, we've already got a good portion of our corn harvested. For a lot of those acres, we already have fertilizer and cover crop seed spread across the top of them. So that's going to be the number one thing that we're focused on when we're thinking about soil health, and how we can work on some of those conservation aspects, is just trying to make sure we're incorporating those cover crops, because for us it's a major soil erosion protection factor, as well as just all of the other benefits that you get by having a living organism growing on the surface of that soil, and with the roots all through the winter time.
Morgan Seger (06:49):
Yeah, I know every operation is different. But can I ask what cover crops you're using?
Joshlin Yoder (06:55):
So we primarily use cereal rye. It is one that is just hardy. We have pretty good luck getting a stand on it in a variety of different manners. We can also use it for forage for the cattle operation that my dad and my brother have as well. So we will primarily stick to cereal rye. We've experimented, and we will use some other things. We've tried Harry Vetch on some in front of corn at different times. We've done the radishes and oats and turnips and some of those kinds of things as well. But cereal rye, overall, day in, day out, year in, year out, it's the one that we are going to stick to the most and use the most, because we feel like we can handle it and manage it and get a lot of good benefit out of it.
Morgan Seger (07:36):
As we think about technology, at Precision Ag Reviews, we focus a lot on precision ag technology. Do you have any examples of how technology is helping you reach the goals that you have for your own operation?
Joshlin Yoder (07:49):
Yeah. The longer we've used precision technology on the farm, the more I have come to realize that, yes, there are a lot of conveniences that we create by using technology like an auto steer, shutoffs on the sprayer, or various things that definitely help with the efficiencies and the convenience of farming. But the longer I've done it, the more I believe that the data we collect is maybe the most important aspect of using precision technology on our farm. Because of the data we collect, we are really using it to help us make better decisions in all aspects of the operation. From the seeds we choose to the planting populations, to the rates of the chemicals, the data we collect, to me, is the most valuable portion of what we do and how we can continue to improve on what we're doing in agriculture.
Morgan Seger (08:44):
Sure. Is there any specific data that you've collected, that you think has the most impact?
Joshlin Yoder (08:51):
Well, yield data is definitely huge. And being in the combine right now, that's one that's easy to point to. We can take that yield data, and when we combine it with soil maps, we use that to help us with our variable rate prescriptions for fertilizer, our variable rate planting populations on corn. But it also lets us really do a lot of research too. Maybe it's this year we had some soybean fields where we did planting population trials, where we're trying to experiment and see how low can we go on planting population and still achieve the maximum yield potential on a bean field. And so I think the yield is a great way to determine what we've done. But just a great way to do research and see what is working the best for us in a lot of different aspects.
Morgan Seger (09:46):
Sure. We actually just had John Fulton from Ohio State on, talking about soybean population trials as well. I'm interested. How low did you guys go?
Joshlin Yoder (09:56):
So we pushed one small strip. And we were not going to do many acres. But we pushed one all the way down to an 80,000 planting population. And we actually lowered our average population this year, too, from where we'd been in the past. But we went anywhere from 140,000 all the way down to 80,000 in the trial we did. And it works really well. Because I don't know if it was on the podcast or with a different interview through Precision Ag Reviews, but we have a great partner locally that we work with. The business is called On Target Agriculture. But he helps us with our data management. So he is the one who sets up these trials. He can then collect all of the data from the combine. And he can actually help us evaluate how the different things did, whether it's that soybean population trial. We've done fungicide trials in the past. We've done fertilizer trials too. He makes it very convenient and easy for us to see the results of the different things we're trying.
Morgan Seger (10:57):
I think having a partner like that is really valuable. Because you do just, inherently, on a farm, you can collect so many pieces of data. And putting it all together to make those decisions can be a little tricky.
Joshlin Yoder (11:09):
That's right. And as farmers, our number one objective is to get the work done. So whether it's planting a crop, or getting it sprayed, or fertilized, or harvested, we're so focused on the actual operation that sometimes it's easy to just let those types of things slide when it comes to analyzing the data or making sure we're collecting it right, or getting it all put in a format where we can actually use it and help us make those decisions.
Joshlin Yoder (11:38):
And by turning that over and getting someone else involved, that just makes our job just that much easier. Because we don't have to do everything when it comes to that aspect of data analysis and collection. And ultimately analyzing what our results are. It is, for us, it is a lifesaver, because we're not a small operation. No, we're not the largest around by any means. But we're not a small operation. And between farming, the beef cattle operation, and my crop insurance business, there are only so many hours in a day for us to get all of the things done that we want to accomplish.
Joshlin Yoder (12:13):
And that's something I've also learned as I've gotten just a little bit older, is that I don't have to do everything myself. There are a lot of very qualified and very quality people out in the world who are more than eager to help us out and help us accomplish our goals if I'm willing to turn a few of those responsibilities over to someone else. And I'm willing to compensate them for that as well.
Morgan Seger (12:36):
Another question I have, and this one might be a little bit off the wall here. But we've been talking a ton about automation and robotics, and things like that on the Precision Ag Reviews website. I'm curious, what's your gut feeling on this? Do you see this fitting into your operation in the future?
Joshlin Yoder (12:53):
I'm not going to say no, because I do think there are areas where, as the technology continues to improve, I definitely think there's going to be opportunities for automation to take place. I mean, we're already seeing that in small doses in our community with sprayer drones. Where someone about 20 miles away from me got into the sprayer drone business, and he can pre-program the flights and then let it go and let it do its thing. And he doesn't have to actually control that drone as it's putting spray out.
Joshlin Yoder (13:26):
And it's pretty neat to see those things operate. So, could automation have a place within our role? Yes. I don't know if we're ever going to get to the point where I would feel confident saying having a combine out here, doing all of the things the combine does, without someone behind the wheel of it. But I do think there is definitely potential, especially in the weed control aspect, and some of those kinds of things, where we can see automation really take a lot of the burden off of us as farmers to be in the seat of an implement, or a tractor, or a combine, or whatever that case may be.
Morgan Seger (14:00):
Sure. Well, as we think about futuristic things, this might be a little too soon since you're still in the combine. I'm sure you haven't had a chance to really evaluate everything yet. But any ideas on what 2023 might look like for your operation? Any changes you're planning on making today?
Joshlin Yoder (14:18):
Nothing major that we're looking at. Like all operations, we're trying to make sure we keep equipment updated. Which usually means improvements in technology whenever you come to the next generation of whatever it is that you're using or upgrading. We're going through an exciting, but challenging time in agriculture, because there are definitely great opportunities for us with where commodity prices are and different things like that. But we're also seeing our costs jump at the same time too.
Joshlin Yoder (14:52):
So trying to figure out how we can be smart while being efficient while continuing to make upgrades, I think that is the balance that we as farmers are going to have to try to strike, going into the 2023 year. I am not pessimistic at all. I am very optimistic about what 2023 brings. But I do know that, at some point in the future, we're going to see these commodity prices come down. And just trying to make sure we're positioned well to be able to handle that scenario also is important.
Morgan Seger (15:22):
Sure. Well, and with your background in crop insurance, do you have any tips on how you manage all of this volatility?
Joshlin Yoder (15:31):
I just think, again, if you talk crop insurance, make sure that the person you're working with is a good partner for you. Because there are a lot of things, you can do with crop insurance to protect yourself. You can also overinsure yourself too. So again, trying to find that right balance, where how you protect your operation based on your financial situation and your ability to withstand adverse situations, is really, really crucial. But also, just make sure that you are planning ahead. It's easy to think that when the times are good that they're always going to be good. And it's easy to think when the times are bad that, they're always going to be bad. But trying to figure out how to balance the good times and the bad times so that you're successful and able to continue on, is the trick.
Morgan Seger (16:17):
One question that we always try to ask our guests is if there is one technology that you're most excited about. So we talked earlier this year as we went throughout the summer. Is there anything that's really peaking your interest right now?
Joshlin Yoder (16:29):
I've been hearing ads for some more of the sprayers, not just the drone sprayers, but the ones who actually identify the weeds, and just pinpoint and spray the areas where the weeds are. I am interested to learn more about that. Because I think, as the consuming public becomes more and more interested in how their food has grown, I think we will continue to get scrutiny on the chemistries we use or the amounts of fertilizer or chemicals that we apply out into the fields.
Joshlin Yoder (17:02):
And so if we can find better ways to be more precise, and more conservative with those uses while not adversely affecting our ability to produce crops, I think those are technologies that I'm very interested in. And so I am interested to learn more about some of, like I said, the precision spot spraying, for lack of a better word. I guess I don't know what they're actually calling them. But the ones that identify just where the weeds are and tried to just spray those areas. That's what I'm interested in.
Morgan Seger (17:32):
So I think I've heard it called See and Spray Technology.
Joshlin Yoder (17:35):
Now that you say that, I think that is what they call it in the ad that I heard.
Morgan Seger (17:39):
Okay. Yeah, and I'm actually really excited about that too. I mean, I feel like it could be really beneficial across the entire market. So you're helping meet consumer demands of being good stewards with the chemistry we're using while also being a good steward of your own farm resources. Is there anything else going on at your farm that you would like to share?
Joshlin Yoder (18:00):
Just like I said, we're trucking through harvest. And we're really, really excited about how things have turned out this year, while also realizing that there are places that have not had the same luck that we have had this growing season. And so we just always try to be very thankful for what we've had, and what we've been given, and keep our head up and keep trucking forward.
Morgan Seger (18:27):
Awesome. Well, I will let you get back to harvest. And I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today.
Joshlin Yoder (18:33):
That's no problem. Thank you, Morgan.
Morgan Seger (18:35):
I can really appreciate Joshlin's optimistic and grateful attitude as we are kind of wrapping up the harvest here. And I'm also looking forward to hearing how his trials went and how the rest of the harvest finished up. So if you are also interested in following along with Joshlin's story, I encourage you to go to the Precision Ag Reviews Facebook page or Twitter. You can also find Joshlin directly on Instagram at Farmer Yoder. Show notes for this episode will be available at precisionagreviews.com. While you're there, please check out our grower-sourced reviews. We are building a data set of unbiased ag tech information so you can use it to make decisions about your own operation. Thank you again for spending this time with us here today. Let's grow together.
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