15 March 2002

Precision pays reveals study

PRECISION farming delivers real financial and environmental benefits, a six-year HGCA study has found.

But growers need more than yield maps before the rewards can be realised.

The findings, published at last weeks Precision Farming Event, are free to levy payers as a quick reference decision-tree guide.

An easy-to-follow flow chart aims to help growers decide whether precision farming techniques could be profitable for their own circumstances.

Research at four sites over six seasons found the average benefit of spatially applied nitrogen was £22/ha (£9/acre). Spatial use of herbicides and fungicides could also yield up to £20/ha each.

"This study has shown that precision farming will deliver the sort of financial targets we set back in 1995," says project leader, Dick Godwin, of Cranfield University. "In view of the fact that wheat prices have halved since then, the return has actually doubled our expectations."

The study found an average cut in surplus nitrogen of 30%, proving precision farmings sustainable credentials, he adds.

"Spatially variable applications caused the surplus N to go negative in some cases – that is very significant from an environmental point of view."

A key aspect of the work is remote measuring of plant density by aerial photography. "Yield maps cannot be relied upon alone as a basis of varying nitrogen fertiliser requirements within a field." &#42

&#8226 Based on six years research.

&#8226 Free to HGCA levy payers.

&#8226 Returns twice expectations.

&#8226 Aerial photography key.