Each year, members of the FACTS scheme are required to complete an online assessment to maintain their status.
For 2020/2021, the focus for advisers working in agriculture and field vegetables will be on ways of improving fertiliser (mineral and organic) application accuracy.
The annual theme is devised in consultation with the industry and the importance of accurate application was chosen for the coming year. Applying crop nutrients accurately is just as important as precision crop protection treatments.
Accurate application ensures the right amount of nutrient is applied; even application helps ensure crop performance is optimised right across the field and applying the right product in the right way at the right time is critical to avoiding nutrient loss, either through the soil or to the air as emissions.
Individuals looking to take the course to retain their FACTS qualified adviser (FQA) status can undertake their own preparatory study using resources such as the AIC Fertiliser Spreader Manual, NVZ guidance and information from the National Sprayer Testing Scheme, or they can work with a BASIS-approved trainer or take an online course.
The remit of this year’s module is broad, beginning with the importance of accuracy in application, the effect of timing and weather conditions, as well as potential yield and financial penalties.
The importance of checking the condition of application equipment includes NSTS services and calibration equipment, as well as testing nozzle flow rates for fluid fertilisers. How to test and how frequently to tray test spreaders is covered, along with how to interpret test results.
Innovation is a feature of spreader technology today. The module looks at the potential for weigh cells and mass flow meters as well as the use of GPS control and the ability of section control to reduce over-application on short working. Attention is paid to crop sensors, soil mapping and variable rate application.
Fertiliser quality can also affect accuracy. Candidates get to study the effects of particle size and density along with kits available to test quality on-farm.
Calibration of manure spreaders and adjusting bout widths to achieve even application is considered, as well as methods of application. Surface broadcasting and trailing shoe/hose methods to injection can have a significant effect on potential emissions to the atmosphere.
Finally, the course deals with relevant legislation; especially on issues such as protecting water and low emission slurry spreading.
Candidates have a year from July 2020 to complete the course and so maintain FQA status.