Farmer Focus: Busy mapping fields for precision cropping

We have gone from a period of cold and wet weather with substantial winds – causing a large amount of damage to the polytunnels on our fruit business – to a settled fortnight with temperatures unusually high for this time of year. This has allowed us to complete all our spring drilling with excellent seed-bed conditions.

In fact, the challenge has been keeping the moisture in. Therefore, I am glad we did not cultivate early and waited for the better weather and kept the drill not far behind. Easier said than done.

See also: Read more from our arable Farmer Focus writers

All the winter crops still look well, but are two to three weeks behind last year, with the oilseed rape only just out in full flower. However, with the warmer weather, crops are now accelerating through their growth stages. 

In my spare time and with our recent uptake of precision agriculture, I have been busy mapping all our fields and trying to do it as accurately as possible. To aid this, we have linked our Greenstar guidance system on to our John Deere Gator to allow me to precisely map all the boundaries, margins and ineligible features and even add in the A-B lines.

In addition, I am matching all the field names with those on the Gatekeeper system so as we get more into precision farming, it all becomes compatible – fingers crossed.

I am hoping this exercise will also help us with the completion of our Basic Payment Scheme application, which this year will require checking that all our permanent ineligible features are mapped accurately for the calculation of entitlements in future. It does make you wonder why we should go to so much effort to get it right when at their end, the whole thing is in a bit of a mess and is undoubtedly going to lead to delayed payments.

Jack Hopkins

Jack Hopkins is the assistant farm manager on a 730ha estate in North Herefordshire on predominantly silty clay loam soils. Cropping includes wheat, barley, oilseed rape, spring oats and peas, plus grassland that supports a flock of 1,000 ewes and 25 pedigree Hereford cattle.