Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Crop trials examine benefit of precision agronomy techniques

January 2, 2019 by  
Filed under Crops

Precision agronomy can boost yields and reduce production costs by £28/t, according to recent trials conducted by Hutchinsons.

The trials compared variably drilled wheat with wheat sown at a standard rate on split fields. Results showed that Omnia Precision Agronomy techniques increased yields by an average of 0.6t/ha – worth £99/ha with wheat prices at £165/t.

Hutchinsons precision technology specialist  Nick Strelczuk said the results were particularly relevant at a time when growers were being challenged to increase productivity to mitigate the impact of changes to support payments.

He said: “This is really exciting news for the industry as it is the first time that we have been able to prove the financial benefit of the features that using Omnia for variable rate applications offers to growers such as more even establishment and targeting inputs.”

Financial validation

The winter wheat trials were carried out on a number of fields. Fields with greater soil variations gained more obviously from variable rate applications – but there were also benefits in fields with less variation.

The first trial was carried out on a field of marine clay that had very little variation in soil type and condition at Grove Farm near Bourne, Lincolnshire. It was sown with a crop of KWS Zyatt winter wheat on 5 October.

To create the variable drilling plan within Omnia, agronomist Alex Richardson created maps of soil texture, seed bed condition and weed pressure which were inputted along with variety and drilling information, and a detailed seed rate plan was generated.

One side of the field was drilled at a standard seed rate of 204kg/ha equating to 392 seeds/m2. The other half was drilled with a variable rate ranging from 189kg/ha in the better parts of the field to 228kg/ha in the poorer areas.

Obvious differences

“There were obvious differences in the two sides of the field on emergence, with the variably drilled side looking more evenly established – which was confirmed by a biomass picture taken in May,” says Mr Strelczuk.

A total of 312kg/ha Ammonium Nitrate (AN) was applied to the field later in May, ranging from 295-325 kg/ha on the variably managed side. The total field averaged 8.84t/ha but the variably drilled crop out-yielded the farm standard by 0.47t/ha, that’s worth £77/ha.

“Even in fields with very little variation, using Omnia for variable rate applications increases yields,” says Mr Strelczuk. The cost per tonne of producing the crop was then calculated by combining this data with Omnia’s cost of production tool.

“The calculations showed that costs for the area drilled variably were on average £9/t less than the farm standard of £99/t – so not only were we getting better yields but the cost of producing these yields was lower with Omnia.”

Second trial

The second trial was carried out by agronomist Sally Morris and grower Frazer Jolly. They grew a crop of RGT Illustrious winter wheat on a predominantly sandy loam field with a clay loam strip through the middle at Saltby Farms, near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.

This crop was also drilled on 5 October. The standard side of the field was drilled at 178kg/ha or 356 seeds/m2 while the Omnia side was drilled at rates that varied from 164kg/ha to 207kg/ha which was an average of 182kg/ha.

The average final nitrogen application was 404kg/ha Sulphan across the field, but the variably applied rates ranged from 365-462kg/ha Sulphan.

Yields averaged 9.1t/ha – but the variably managed side out-yielded the standard side of the field by 1.4t/ha. This equates to £231/ha at a feed wheat price of £165/tonne. Costs from Omnia variable applications were £93/t compared to the farm standard of £121/t.

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