12 March 1999

Precision gains ground

By Ian Marshall

WHETHER convert or sceptic, there is no escaping precision farmings increasingly high profile as a management tool designed to increase yields and reduce costs through specific use of inputs.

Those who attended the Precision Farming event in Newark last week were, in the main, believers, looking to expand their knowledge of the latest technical advances in the hardware and software available – tools for the computerised creation of yield maps, and soil and nutrient profiles.

Understandably, there were also those looking for practical advice – some still sceptical as to whether the concepts claimed benefits justify the capital expense in sophisticated equipment.

It was to this section of the audience companies such as Tech International were appealing with a hire scheme, where, for about £250 a week, farmers get a kit comprising a satellite differential positioner and a hand-held data logger.

"The aim is to encourage farmers to test the precision farming waters, by giving them the opportunity to create and assess the value of basic soil sampling and weed infestation maps, without having to invest heavily in equipment," explains Tech Internationals managing director Robin Bendall.

But there is a significant sector of the uncommitted who want to leave their future options open, maintains KRMs Keith Rennie, who used the event to launch the KRM Calibrator 2003 electronic control system.

"Many farmers buying new fertiliser spreaders now want automatic controls which can be linked to a GPS system, should they decide to go down the precision farming route," he says.

Calibrator 2003 incorporates an instruction manual which guides the operator, on a step-by-step basis, through procedures such as calibrating the machine – to determine the flow rate of the material being applied – and setting the application rate.

When selected by touch pad, instructions – displayed on the controllers LED screen – are implemented via the systems electronics.

Application rate is automatically maintained irrespective of changes in forward speed. The system also allows the operator to increase the rate by up to 400% or reduce it by 100%, both on the move.