Farmer Focus: GPS system cuts Philip Bradshaw’s fertiliser use

Cambridgeshire farmer Philip Bradshaw grows cereals, sugar beet and potatoes on about 300ha (740 acres) of fenland and other soil types from Flegcroft Farm, Whittlesey

The sugar beet I drilled in early April has emerged rapidly as anticipated, as has the usual carpet of broadleaved weeds. At the time of writing we are awaiting a break in the showers to get in with the first early herbicide mix.

Combinable crops are racing through growth stages in the warmer temperatures, and this makes spraying schedules tricky, especially with the catchy weather.

I have now done our first GPS-guided variable-rate phosphate, potash and magnesium fertiliser applications. Since machinery-sharing colleague Andrew Jacobs acquired a combine with GPS yield mapping for last year’s harvest, we decided to have a large area of land soil-sampled using GPS guidance.

The resulting site-specific spreading has substantially reduced fertiliser use, which has made the recent massive increases in fertiliser prices a little easier to accept. The Amazone spreader, coupled to the Trimble GPS device using Farmworks VRA software, has been incredibly accurate. This does come at extra expense, but across the farms within our machinery sharing arrangement the cost is quite small per hectare.

Recently I have been spending some time preparing for the LEAF-coordinated Open Farm Sunday event on 1 June. As last year, I am part of a group of local farmers organising an event based at nearby Thorney. We are planning various static displays and attractions, along with trailer/minibus rides to take visitors to farming and countryside points of interest.

It is an incredibly useful occasion, always enjoyable, and not too difficult to organise when several people/organisations collaborate as we do. There is still time for others to organise similar events and I would urge everyone to consider getting involved.

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