A PILOT precision fertilising advice service based on electro-magnetic induction (EMI) scanning has paid dividends in a tricky season for one Oxon wheat grower.
The Masstock Dalgety DDF system works by using EMI scanning and mineral nitrogen sampling together with variable rate applications.
Mr Smith tested the approach on an 11.6ha (29-acre) field of Hereward at Kingham Hill Farm near Chipping Norton.
“It was a real eye opener,” he said. “The fields either side went flat but this one stood.”
Although the yield, averaging 9.4 t/ha (3.8 t/acre), was much the same as the others, the quality in those fertilised as usual was lost to the weather, he said.
The weather, rather than precision farming, was most responsible for the difference, he admitted. But applying nitrogen variably has clearly been a success.
“You are giving the crop what it needs where it is needed. Quite apart from the fertiliser saving, there must be less being leached, so there is an environmental benefit.”
At an average of 189kg/ha (151 units/acre) over the field Mr Smith used a tonne less than his normal application practice, saving £12/ha (£4.90/acre).
As nitrogen inputs come under greater public scrutiny, and to ensure they return maximum value, more accurate targeting will grow in importance, said Dalgety agronomist Gordon Thornton.
“There was quite a surprising variation in how much product was applied, from 275kg/ha down to nothing.”
The EMI data, plus previous cropping, yields and information on other inputs was sent to Kemira GrowHow and processed using the company‘s LORIS software, which matches the N requirements to the soil‘s yield potential.
“Our experience has shown us what a difference it can make to a quality wheat crop if you can give it exactly what it needs.”