Apply crop inputs only where they are needed; this is the aim of xarvio Digital Farming Solutions, the digital arm of BASF. It has developed tools like FIELD MANAGER to create targeted prescription maps, which enable strategic application of plant protection products to ensure better crop uniformity and yield.
Luke Pollard, xarvio Implementation Lead at BASF, says that data driven crop modelling and detailed environmental data can assist decision making on-farm, and these digital technologies are a key enabler to achieve a more sustainable agriculture. He will be talking about precision application in the Technology Exhibition at REAP 2022.
xarvio FIELD MANAGER is a leading platform for the digital optimization of crop production. It is trusted by more than 98,000 farmers around the world, supporting more than 14 million hectares.
Digital decision-making tool delivers on-farm efficiency
xarvio FIELD MANAGER was launched in 2020 as a handy tool for growers and agronomists to improve collection and utilisation of data through satellite imagery and a number of farmers, like cereal grower Pat Thornton have been involved in trials.
Pat runs Low Melwood Farm, near Doncaster, in partnership with his father. The 150ha operation grows Oilseed Rape, Winter Wheat, Spring Barley and Spring Beans.
Over the past season, he has been using xarvio FIELD MANAGER, as part of a whole field scale trial with BASF. Growers can use the tool to access historical biomass maps, called PowerZone maps, which identify high and low performing field-zones, based on satellite data.
Pat has identified historical productivity trends for the last 15 years and in-season field variation on his farm, this has allowed him to alter and target his inputs more precisely.
Using the PowerZone maps, Pat found that there was a fair amount of variation between his crops and was able to manipulate his seeding rates to improve uniformity in the field.
“It is not low-hanging fruit for a farm of our size to embrace this technology, it does come at a price, but I was really surprised how much data was on there,” he said.
“We have also been able to use the latest in-season satellite images to target Nitrogen rates to even out fields in the early spring. We were able to create application maps for our spreader, so thinner areas received a higher rate of 60kg per hectare of Nitrogen and thicker areas were reduced to 40kg per hectare.”
Amazone precision equipment loaded with prescription map
He explained that he sees the technology as making the best use of what they have. He has been using the Amazone range of seeding, spreading and spraying equipment, which can be loaded with a prescription map to carry out a designated task, using information from the xarvio app.
For this project, the Cayena tine seeder and Cirrus cultivator drill were used for crop establishment and then crop care was carried out using a ZA-TS 3200 Profis Tronic spreader and Pantera 4504 self-propelled sprayer.
By altering seeding rates in August 2021, Pat was able to see improved biomass consistency across his field by May the following year.
Targeted fungicide programme
He was then also able to apply this targeted input approach for application of Revystar® XE, a systemic fungicide with protectant and curative properties for disease control.
Luke Pollard explains: “We discussed how to target Revystar XE for Pat’s T2 application, using the latest satellite images, to produce an application map for the sprayer. We maintained the average use at 1.25 litres per hectare, but we varied from 1.0 litre in the thinner areas up to 1.5 litres per hectare where there was more biomass and more green leaf area”
Luke adds that by using a new piece of hardware called xarvio CONNECT – which physically connects to the terminal within the machinery – growers can wirelessly ping data backwards and forwards from the FIELD MANAGER system to the terminal.
“This allows a grower to, for example, send an application map for liquid fertiliser or crop protection to the sprayer terminal wirelessly,” he said.
Another recent feature is the ability to add field notes. This allows growers to use GPS location on their phone to pin the location of a particular part of their farm and log any information or photos to monitor how fields are progressing. Pat explained how he used this to help map black-grass, which allowed him to go back to the precise location to treat it.
“It is a useful tool to have in your pocket when out walking the fields. I make notes, monitor disease risk and growth stage,” Pat continues. “It has brought an additional level of information and insight to help me make decisions on-farm.”
By using a biodiversity planner, growers can pinpoint less productive areas and assess their suitability for a range of environmental management options.
Growers can create management zones for biodiversity measures, targeting low performing field zones and integrate those insights with seeding, nutrition, and crop protection maps.
Luke continues: “We have been working alongside The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology to look at how we can incorporate biodiversity maps in our app, to assess the most suitable zones for introducing biodiversity measures. They have done lots of research in terms of understanding which different factors on the field such as altitude, latitude, location of water sources, hedgerows, trees, etc and how all these have an impact on where is the most suitable area for example, for a pollinator habitat, or to drill some nectar mix or wildflowers.”
Growers can automatically exclude zones from their maps for example for drilling, where they are about to plant nectar mixes.
“We can all walk and look at our farms and assess them to an extent, but having a tool like this gives you the ability to back up your decision-making process,” Pat concluded.
From yield mapping and precision livestock through to digital twins and cloud computing, at REAP 2022 we will be exploring the technology and looking at the implications from a field to landscape level. Making technology farm-centric is core to Agri-TechE’s mission so a key feature of the conference will be a panel of farmers and producers discussing the emerging technologies and future scenarios.