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Increasing Yield: Part 3 [Agriculture
Posted on June 6, 2017 @ 08:23:00 AM by Paul Meagher

I had some additional thoughts on increasing yield this weekend that will be the focus of today's blog (earlier thoughts at part 1 and part 2).

Just to refresh, I use the term yield to refer to a measure of productivity per unit area. Productivity might be measured in dollars or in bushels of corn. Often dollars are used as a surrogate measure of yield but it is not perfectly correlated with physical yield because the yield in dollars is also affected by supply and demand. That being said, we are often interested in yield measured both in dollars and bushels as they both provide useful information.

The calculation of yield is also affected by two major complicating factors.

One complicating factor is that yield is a multidimensional concept. You can increase yield across several dimensions at the same time and a good designer often is.

In 2011 Ethan Roland & Gregory Landua wrote an influential essay called The 8 forms of capital. This diagram gives you a quick overview of the categories they posited.

Where Ethan and Gregory use the term "Capital" I might use the phrase "Types of Yield" and regard each of these as types of yeild a project might address.

Another complicating factor is that yield can be hard to assign. For example, I sell square bales of hay from my barn to clients consisting mostly of horse owners. One horse owner confided to me today that she keeps her horses in the barn during the hot part of the day when the flies are bad. She likes to have some hay available for them to eat. The hay that we sell to such horse owners is stored in the barn and sold from there.

What is the yield of the barn measured in dollars? Besides the tricky, but interesting math involved, we also have the problem of deciding what percentage of the final price obtained should be attributed to the storage aspect. There were also the costs of mowing, teddering, raking, baling, moving it into the barn, and beer to quench the workers. You can assign a percentage but to find solid grounds for doing so may also be tricky.

Ultimately, we always have to come back to the fact that yield is meant to be a practical concept that we might use to assess performance on a per unit area basis. These complications make the calculation of yield more difficult but possibly also more meaningful and relevant.

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