Precision farming in Europe took off about 20 years ago. The GPS and sensor aided technique in principle offers huge potential to improve efficiency and precision with respect for our environment. Nevertheless, the impossibilities seem to prevent a real breakthrough.
As from the beginning, the main focus has been on technology. Technology that, if you take a close look, hasn’t changed that much over the past decades. Of course we now use centimetre precision and autopilot steering systems, but the problems still are interpretation and translation of the collected data. How can you relate lower yields to soil conditions or nutrient deficits, or both?
Last week, the first article from a series of eight about the autopilot was released in Dutch TREKKER Magazine. The series is called “Get the most from your autopilot” and is aimed at using the possibilities and benefits from the still expensive RTK GPS autopilot systems to the utmost. The article contains practical hints, tips from experts and is readable for everyone, whether you’re a beginner or an expert.
Quite recently it was John Deere that drew attention to its slurry / manure sensing system. Initially it was on display at last year’s Agritechnica at German partnering companies Fliegl and Kotte Garant. At Agribex in Brussels John Deere was even awarded with a silver medal for this so-called Organic Nutrient Management System with Near Ifra Red (NIR) sensors. I wanted to write an article about it and since the project is still ongoing, the importers did not want to talk about it, so I ended up at Deere’s Strategic Marketing department in Mannheim (D). If you Google, you won’t find a lot of information or publications about it. The thing is, John Deere is not the only company and also not the first company working on slurry / manure sensing with NIR sensors. Initially it was German firm Zunhammer that developed a NIR manure sensing system in 2008. The applied for a patent as well. In The Netherlands, John Deere partners with Vervaet, manufacturer of self-propelled slurry applicators.
Another Dutch company, Veenhuis Machines, is also working on a solution to analyse manure on board of transport tanks. Veenhuis focusses on transport rather than on applicators though. Both John Deere and Veenhuis expect to have the first system available end of this year. A very promising outlook, since the systems enable to apply slurry as if it was (liquid) fertiliser! Enter the rate of N or P you want to apply and the system applies the correct rates site specific regardless of the slurry output in m3 per hectare!
A first article on this revolutionary way of applying slurry was published in Dutch magazine Boerderij no. 27 of April 1st and a second article appeared in TREKKER Magazine 308 of May.
Nowadays, autoguidance systems are commonly used by many arable farmers and contractors. The systems are usually quite expensive and coverage of the necessary RTK network isn’t always guaranteed. There are however alternatives available that can do without GPS. With mechanical, optical or sonic systems, tractors and implements can be guided automatically following tramlines, crop rows, swaths and ridges. Q-rious took a look at the new Grimme RowRunner, the Claas Cam Pilot and the Reichhardt PSR Sonic system. Users only come up with one drawback; you always need an existing line or ridge to follow. The article was published in Boerderij magazine of October 22nd.
This month two of my articles made it to the covers of magazines. Part 1 of my RTK-GPS autosteer articles features on the cover of De Loonwerker.be and my translated article of the new Sulky Econov features on the cover of Belgian/French Entreprise Agricole.