29 March 2002

Extension of digital farming service claims to reduce the cost of irrigating crops

ARABLE farmers could cut water bills by using soil mapping to irrigate crops more accurately.

The new service is being offered by Dalgety Digital Farming (DDF) and irrigation and water monitoring company Fullpoint Probe Services.

Mapping information is created by Dalgety using MagnaScan soil conductivity equipment to create a detailed analysis of subsoil structure, which Fullpoint uses to install monitoring sites more accurately.

Regular soil moisture readings are combined with weather, irrigation and crop-specific data to produce a schedule of irrigation needs.

By matching the soils natural capacity to the crops water uptake, growers can avoid over-wetting the profile. Fertiliser applications can also be tailored more precisely.

"This extension of the DDF service provides us with an exciting opportunity to provide very valuable cost savings to growers, in an area where previously we have had little expertise," says national product manager Alastair Taylor.

"Farmers are looking for efficient ways of feeding and irrigating crops rather than relying on guess-work," adds Fullpoints Duncan Spencer. "Over-irrigation has many detrimental effects on the crops as well as causing nutrient leaching through the profile."

Henry Thompson Farms at Ely, Cambs, is one of two units testing the service. "It is very convenient, the scanning is carried out either on stubble or when the land has been ploughed," says farm manager, Alastair Symington.

"The maps allow me to target the crop more accurately with P and K, while Fullpoints scheduling provides site and crop-specific irrigation advice." &#42