5 January 2001

Contractor has the solution to precision links

GETTING different precision farming systems to work together has long been a headache, but one Cambs grower/contractor reckons he has the problem solved.

Software developments mean Andrew Melton of &#42 Melton and Son, Walpole Highway, can now reap the full benefits of recording and variable application measurements from several sources.

Mr Melton has a 243ha (600-acre) farm and is contractor on a further 800ha (2000 acres). "This has given me a large acreage over which I can spread the investment in machinery."

Systems used include John Deere Greenstar yield mapping, RDS input controllers, Hydros N Sensor, soil conductivity testing and soil mapping from SOYL.

Data from each is imported straight into Farmades mapping program Amais. It produces maps from all the sources that can be viewed on the same screen, as separate pictures or overlaid. With two or more maps open at one time trends become more apparent.

As well as being used for mapping the data is automatically fed into the MultiCrop program, where product amounts are deducted from the store. "This helps us with traceability and stock management," says Mr Melton.

Stories are emerging within fields. Fertiliser applications using the N Sensor, for example, varied by 50% within a field, with different areas showing very different needs on the second and third applications.

This year soil conductivity readings are being used to vary sowing rates. More seed went into higher conductivity areas on the basis that those have a greater water content, indicating a heavier soil type, although compaction could be another reason, Mr Melton admits.

"I am working towards producing a good, even crop across the whole field. This data makes you ask more questions and helps to qualify what you are doing. Having flexibility in the software to work out gross margins in parts of fields is important for ultimately raising them across the whole area." &#42

Andrew Melton is successfully combining several sources of information in his drive for precision farming.