WASHINGTON, Oct. 14, 2015 - With combines rolling across the country, yield monitors routinely share the “good news” of bumper crops and the not so good news of wet or drought-parched regions where little seemed to grow. All of this data, of course, can be used by USDA to establish the Actual Production History (APH) that farmers and insurance providers annually use to establish yields for crop insurance coverage.
But in addition to production history, the use of permanent land descriptors could also allow linkage to land attributes, like soil typology and hydrology within specific parcels of land – where yields might be consistently higher or lower than other parts of the county. As a result, the actuarial efficiency of the insurance offer to the producer could be improved, noted USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) in a 2011 Manager’s bulletin seeking comments on the possibility of APH enhancements.
Of course, the agency is prohibited from identifying individual farmers in this project and from releasing any data to others, but four years into the research, some interesting correlations are showing up.
“For the first time within the last few years, we are collecting yield data at a land unit level,” explained RMA’s Tom Worth during a recent crop insurance workshop in Louisville. He showed a map of Grundy County, Iowa, for example, and the variations in yield based on different soil types within the county.
“Previously, we just knew the county but not necessarily the exact location of the field within the county. For the first time, we have this geographically-specific information and we are now exploring how the information can be related to other data, such as soils, where there are extensive data sets.
Worth says any type of final result is still “a long way off” as his agency conducts basis research, looking at how different data sources can be matched up and how reliable the results can be.
“Once we establish that, then we can start asking: What can that mean in terms of improving the yields and premium rates in the crop insurance program,” he adds.
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