Farmer Focus Arable: RTK system helps Nick Padwick achieve precision farming

With the introduction of the RTK (Real Time Kinematic) satellite guidance system on Stoughton Estate last year it has opened up many opportunities for precision farming techniques either on its own or in conjunction with N sensors (X20 boxes).

Land at Stoughton was soil zoned by Precisions Decisions in March this year. The data gathered consisted of deep conductivity down to 120cm, shallow conductivity at 50cm and altitude. The scanning measures the water-holding capacity of the soils which then allows us to make decisions on applying the seeds, fertiliser and sprays at varying rates across the fields.

The data has been entered into the GateKeeper crop manager program, which then allows us to build zones within each field. For example, when we go to start drilling we will take the zones and apply a percentage of seed to each zone. This is then loaded to the X20 box which will hopefully communicate to the Vaderstad drill box and vary the seed according to the maps as we drill the fields.

As well as variably applying seed we can also use the same technology to apply slug pellets, if required, and potentially liquid phosphate from a tank located on the front of our tractor.

There are many benefits to this system – one is producing a more even crop establishment coming out of the winter where historically having a uniform seed rate you would potentially have an uneven stand.

When we are drilling this year the drill will automatically increase seed rates on heavier zones within the fields and less where the soils are lighter. The base rate can be adjusted to take into consideration the local weather and soil conditions.

This is a learning curve for us at Stoughton and I’ll let you know the outcome in the spring.

• Visit Nick’s blog on FWI, which includes video diaries.

• For more columns from other Arable Farmer Focus writers

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