Establishing a yield goal for small grains

Setting a realistic yield goal is important for developing a profitable production plan. Yield goals are primarily used to calculate fertilizer requirements.

How to set a yield goal

The most frequently used method to determine a yield goal is basing it on a particular field’s historical production data. Other commonly suggested approaches to setting a realistic goal are:

  • Five-year average of the farm.

  • Five-year average plus 5 percent.

  • Five-year average plus 10 bushels.

  • The highest yield in the past five years.

Fine-tuning your goal

Consider the following factors when fine-tuning a yield goal:

  • When changing to a variety with a known higher yield potential, increase your yield goal to match its greater productivity.

  • When using the farm average, adjust the yield goal up or down if experience indicates the field in question has performed better or worse than other fields.

  • Adjust the yield goal upward if you made significant improvements, such as improved drainage, or if you’ve adopted management practices that dramatically improved yields in the past few years (i.e., use of fungicide).

  • In the western half of North Dakota, consider adjusting yield goals to account for stored soil moisture and expected seasonal rainfall at planting time.

  • Should you delay planting due to adverse conditions, lower the yield goal to more accurately reflect the lower potential yield of a late-planted crop.

  • For malting barley, set a conservative yield goal because over-fertilization can result in undesirable protein levels.

Jochum Wiersma, Extension agronomist and Joel Ransom, Extension agronomist, North Dakota State University

Reviewed in 2018

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