2 February 1996

Danes on precision

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PRECISION farming looks like being big business in Denmark. And machinery manufacturers are keen to get in at the start of this rapidly developing industry.

A brief look at government rural policy over the past 10 years shows why Danish farmers are so enthusiastic about precision farming – or the more efficient targeting of inputs within a field using new technology.

In 1987 the Water Environment (WE) plan was introduced, and it has had far-reaching effects on farming: By 1994 there were slurry tanks on 19,200 farms, 93% of which had storage capacity for six months or more; 70% of slurry is now applied in the spring; nitrogen consumption has fallen by 100,000t from its mid-1980s level of 400,000t; and pesticide use is now at only 54% of its 1981-85 levels.

These enforced application levels explain why farmers are so keen to target their available inputs. It also explains why the Danish machinery industry is at the forefront of developing precision farming technology.

At Agromek several companies were displaying new precision farming equipment.

Bogballe used Agromek for the official European debut of its Calistar fertiliser spreading device – a system which UK farmers received a sneak preview of at Smithfield FarmTech (Nov 1995) on the Keith Rennie Machinery stand.

On-the-move adjustment

Calistar enables on-the-move auto adjustment of a fertiliser spreaders application rate across a field, according to information stored on a "smart card". The card, which will have been fed with rate information in the farm office, is slotted in the back of the tractor-mounted Calistar control box.

The control box doubles as a GPS (global positioning system) receiver, picking up signals from satellites and a correction station to inform the machine of its exact position within the field. Price of Calistar in Denmark is about DKK 100,000 (about £11,500).

Another Danish company, LH Agro, displayed two new precision farming tools at Agromek, a GPS module and a yield monitor incorporating both a moisture meter and GPS equipment.

The GPS module is an extension of LH Agros implement monitor, the LH5000, which enables on-the-move adjustment of drills, sprayers, fertiliser and slurry spreaders.

These adjustments are made by the operator, whereas the GPS module allows auto adjustment using information from an application map produced in the farm office. Data is transferred from office to machine on a "smart card".

Also new from LH Agro is a combine yield monitor, the Yield Logger.As well as producing grain yield figures from a strain gauge weigh cell, fitted at the top of the combines grain elevator, the monitor is also available with moisture meter and GPS receiver options.

The moisture meter constantly checks grain moisture content during work, and readings for individual loads or a particular field can also be monitored on the in-cab display.

Adding the GPS receiver option pack converts the Yield Logger into a complete on-combine yield mapping kit.

The Bogballe Calistar – computer-controlled fertiliser spreader rate adjustment, on the move.