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06 Nov 2020

Putting tech to the test

As featured in Arable Farming Magazine

Putting tech to the test

Making decision-making simpler

BASFs xarvio precision farming system was launched in the UK at LAMMA 2020 and its development is supported by a network of farmers across the UK.

Among them is Graham Willoughby, farm manager at Strutt and Parker-managed Maces Farm, Saffron Walden, Essex, who has been using the xarvio scouting app and Field Manager module.

Also involved in trialling xarvio alongside Mr Willoughby is Strutt and Parker partner Jock Willmott, who is the national technical lead for the Strutt and Parker farming team, as well as having direct farm management and consultancy responsibilities across Essex, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire.

Maces Farm is on consistent, well-drained, yieldresponsive soils, with a rotation of combinable crops, including milling wheat, and sugar beet.

The ambition is to keep it profitable, says Mr Willmott.

Technology currently used on the farm includes two weather stations, providing real-time data, with the aim over time of correlating yields with weather data.

GPS steering on tractors and combine facilitates yield mapping and variable rate applications of P and K.

The farm is now in its seventh year of variable rate drilling.

We havent persevered with drones or variable rate nitrogen, Mr Willmott says.

Positive impact

He adds: There is a lot of tech out there and it all comes with a price, not least in terms of the time it takes to enter all the data.

For us, if it gets on the farm it has got to justify its place; its got to show a positive impact, either in time saving or adding to the bottom line. While keeping a tight rein on costs and maintaining output remain key targets, pressure on farm businesses to improve their environmental performance is just around the corner, says Mr Willmott.

Technology has a role to play in responding to this, he believes.

One of the things we are conscious of is that someday down the road being a BASISqualified adviser may not be enough to justify what you are doing in terms of crop inputs.

To have credible software which you can call on to justify these might add credence to your decisions.

Thats the challenge and that is why we are putting xarvio to the test.

If you take last year, when yields were high and this year, when yields are probably the worst Mr Willoughby and I have seen in our lifetimes, you need to have confidence to push or pull back on inputs and if we can use Disease Manager to spot that there is no chance of septoria coming, for example, it gives us the chance to pull back on fungicides and thats where we can make some significant cost savings. Mr Willoughby adds: Weve had a very good experience with the software so far.

When we are crop walking, we walk different routes on different parts of the farm yet we still dont cover all 1,000 hectares.

The sprayer operator also sees things we dont see.

Complete picture

Field Manager means we can all record our observations and share them, so weve all got a complete picture, all of the time.

In bringing all our information together, xarvio is making our decision-making processes easier, simpler and more accurate. Whether any one platform can ever meet all growers requirements remains to be seen but involving growers in the development of new technologies will at least help to ensure they are relevant and have real value.

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