More research is needed – enthusiast
PRECISION farming has much to offer UK arable farmers, but it is forging ahead of essential chemistry and agronomy information, says a Yorks farming and contracting enthusiast.
More research is needed if its full potential is to be translated into higher crop yields at lower cost, says Clive Blacker of Church Farm, Shipton by Beningbrough, York.
A good example is varying seed rate within a field as soil type changes and with it yield potential. That will become more important in years to come as seed costs rise as genetically modified seed and improved seed dressings become available, he says.
But to be able to vary seed rates with confidence more precise agronomy information is needed on desirable plant populations on different soil types at different drilling dates.
Agrochemical companies also need to provide more detailed advice on fungicide application rates if the ability to vary dose in different parts of the field is to be fully exploited.
In future Mr Blacker believes the simultaneous application of up to five different chemicals will be possible, not as a tank mix, but as individual components, each applied at different and variable rates.
Mr Blacker, who runs a large farming and contracting business with his father, Mike, and brother, David, has been involved in precision farming for 12 months. But he is convinced it will become recognised as a valuable aid on most farms and as a service which the successful contractor must be able to provide.
The Blacker family farms 283ha (700 acres) of owned land, plus 486ha (1200 acres) under contract farming and share farming agreements. Contract operations include variable rate fertiliser spreading over 1124ha (3000 acres), combining with yield mapping over 809ha (2000 acres) and sugar beet harvesting, spraying, round baling and drilling work.
Involvement in precision farming stemmed from the award of a contract to spread fertiliser at variable rates according to soil analysis data supplied in electronic format. Using front and rear mounted fertiliser spreaders the Blackers apply potash and phosphate at independently variable rates according to soil analysis.
The introduction of a Claas combine with automatic yield mapping facility is now stimulating further contracting business.
Mapping this year enabled the Blackers to identify up to 25% yield loss around field perimeters due to rabbit damage, areas where rabbit control measures would undoubtedly be cost effective.
Identification of more fertile areas within fields where lodging may be a problem could attract an extra, but cost effective, dose of growth regulator in future, he adds.
"We are still at the pioneering stage, but the potential to manage crops more efficiently by using less power and the right amount of chemistry is vast," Mr Blacker concludes.
As well as describing his experiences at Precision Farming 99 Mr Blacker will call for more standardisation of equipment. "There are systems which are not as compatible as they should be. It is important to get round the table and discuss this," he says.
As well as describing his on-farm experiences at Precision Farming 99 Mr Blacker will call for more standardisation of equipment. "There are systems which are not as compatible as they should be. It is important to get round the table and discuss this," he says.