14 February 1997

Yield mapping shows way to extra income for Lincs unit

ADDITIONAL contracting business has been an unexpected benefit of precision farming reaped by one Lincolnshire farmer.

Grantham-based Robert Pask told delegates at last weeks FARM-IT event that of the 600ha (1500 acres) cut by his combine last year, nearly half was accounted for by contract work. And most of this was thanks to his yield mapping service.

Three years of yield recording on his own farm has shown the huge variations present. In one field, for example, the winter wheat yields ranged between 3.6t and 10.6t/ha. That meant gross margins were varying between -£38/ha and £744/ha.

"This sort of range could be typical on two-thirds of the farm," says Mr Pask.

With this harvest the fourth that yield maps have been kept, Mr Pask plans to start using the results to adjust inputs. "Where possible, yields will be increased. Where this is not an option, input costs may be reduced."

But in the meantime, the extra contracting work is having a big effect on the bottom line. "It allows us to increase turnover and spread our fixed costs over a larger area. This is important because we buy combines new, work them hard for three of four years and then replace them."

lComputers will play a big part in the fight to control fixed costs, according to Farmplans Roger da Cunha. While the trend has been to concentrate on variable costs, the biggest difference between farms is now among fixed costs, he said. And computers promote better recording – and allocation – of such items.

As an example, he cited one farm where initial sums showed the arable, non-grazing livestock and grazing livestock contributing 49%, 31% and 16% to total gross margin, respectively.

When fixed costs were allocated, it was revealed that arable gave only 26% to net margin, while in the case of non-grazing and stock, the figures were 47% and 21%. The analysis showed the need to reorgansise the labour and machinery, said Mr da Cunha.