30 August 1996

Refinements add precision

YIELD-MAPPING – a system which leads to greater profits or an appealing gimmick for a generation of computer buffs?

Whatever your view, the equipment to produce yield maps – and operate application machinery – continues to be refined. And that is despite current knowledge on how to exploit such information being at best scant and at worst idle contemplation of a fading yield map pinned to the office wall.

Latest development from pioneer, Massey Ferguson, comes in the form of Datavision ll which can be used both to record yield and positional information in the combine and, when transferred to a suitably equipped tractor/fertiliser spreader combination, allow automatic on-the-move rate adjustment. Other equipment, such as seed drills and sprayers, also lend themselves to such control.

Designed to be user-friendly, the new screen is touch-sensitive and requires the operator only to touch command areas of the screen to produce the information needed.

When attached to the tractor, information relating to forward speed, pto speed and location, number among a multitude of different displays which can be summoned to the screen. On a combine harvester yield information and area can be displayed with all data continually recorded on the terminals data card for downloading on to the office computer.

Hand in hand with the introduction of the new terminal comes MFs Fieldstar system designed to provide growers with a precision farming package – not only of new hardware but suggestions for ways yield mapping can be profitably utilised. The identification of local soil problems – compacted areas, lime deficiencies, drainage faults, for example – could lead to their correction but only if it is deemed to be financially effective.

Fieldstar provides a formula to ascertain if the investment in correcting such problems is viable. The affected area is multiplied by the estimated cut in yield and then by the value of the crop. This gives an indication of the possible gains to be made which can be compared with the cost of correction.

Recognition of precise areas which need subsoiling or liming could also avoid the cost of treating a whole field.

But for the true precision farmer the ability to vary rates of fertiliser, seed or chemicals in respect of yield potential must be the eventual aim and is, perhaps, where the greatest financial rewards are to be achieved.

Massey Ferguson has for some time been working with fertiliser spreader maker Amazone to develop a machine which could, with the aid of a global positioning system and an interpretation of information produced by a yield map, apply required amounts of nutrient to set areas of a field.

The Fieldstar system calls for the installation of the Datavision ll terminal along with the navigation system, into one of MFs Data-tronic equipped tractors – the 6100/ 8100 Series. Transfer of equipment from a combine or another tractor takes but a few minutes.

With an Amazone twin-disc ZA-M Max spreader adapted so fertiliser flow shutters can be electronically adjusted to control application rate, the scene is set for variable application.

Two inputs are required – where the tractor is in the field and the required amount of fertiliser to be applied at that position.

Positional information is provided by the GPS and fertiliser rate comes from a programme produced by the farmer on the office computer. As the tractor travels up and down the field the fertiliser shutters are opened and shut accordingly to allow varying amounts of fertiliser to be applied.

So, the development of precision farming continues. The equipment improves year by year but not, unfortunately at the same rate as sound agronomic advice. Chips, it seems, grow quicker than corn.

Price of the MF Fieldstar precision farming system for the firms 30/40 series combines and 6100/ 8100 series combines is £12,180.

The price includes the cost of adding MFs yield meter and yield mapping options to the Datavision 11 system on the combine, GPS on the tractor and the office software. &#42

Variable rate fertiliser application with Amazones ZA-M Max twin-disc spreader. Instructions icome from a pre-progfranmmed on-bopard computer working twith the GPAS navigation system.

Massey Ferguson 30/40 Series combines for the 1997 season are to be fitted with a new-style cab. Included is a curved windscreen, improved sound deadening and a multi-function lever for table and transmission control. Out goes the data display TV screen to be replaced with the touch-sensitive Datavision ll terminal – a unit which requires only a touch of the screen to bring operational data to the operators attention. Price of an MF38, complete with 6.1m (20ft) table starts at £155,000.