Getting crops off to the right start is key to their ultimate success. Gatekeeper, alongisde precision farming tools, can help to both improve establishment and maximise efficiencies.
Every crop year starts with establishment and successful establishment starts with rigorous planning, from seed rates to tillage methods. So, how can farmers streamline the process to make it as efficient as possible?
Review before you start
For the best establishment practices, the first place to start is to review previous crop and field records. However, trawling through paperwork to find these and remind yourself about what was done when, and how well it performed, is not always the easiest task. Having records online means the previous year’s data is easily and quickly accessible – helping farmers to plan for the year ahead.
“Records are useful to look at as the history of cropping changes and farmers can see if there is likely to be a problem,” says Mr Cox, an agronomist and product manager who works alongside Farmplan.
From field notes to yield maps, Gatekeeper is able to keep all farm data in one place.
The usual meetings with the agronomist are likely to follow, and adopting a collaborative approach can make establishment decisions more straightforward. Whether planning cultivations, what and where to drill, timings or inputs, Gatekeeper’s agronomist module allows for farm and field information to be seamlessly transferred from farmer to agronomist and back again. Speeding up the decision process saves time, money and helps to fine tune efficiencies.
It can be easier to plan cropping accurately when you can see field dimensions, boundaries, soil types or watercourses on the computer. You can consider the crop history and whether a certain crop is likely to suit the chosen field, while overlaying soil and yield maps gives exact information on variations within or between fields.
Optimising plant populations is one of the key strategies being utilised by growers and agronomists today. Mapping helps to identify underlying problems or variations in the soil, which can in turn affect establishment or cause weeds and pests to be more prevalent. Gatekeeper’s Agrilator tool can then generate variable seed rates to overcome the problem and achieve target plant populations. In order to maximise efficiency and coordinate with the variable seed rates, farmers can also plan fertiliser and chemical inputs at a variable rate using the module.
Choosing which fertiliser and herbicides to use to help the crop establish well, both in terms of efficiency and legality, is another hurdle for farmers to cross. With frequently changing regulation affecting different products – not just active ingredients – it is vital for farmers to be in the know to avoid using products illegally and breaching their cross compliance.
“The devil is in the detail,” says Mr Cox. “There may be products that can only be used on a certain crop, at certain times or within a buffer zone. This is always a big part of product choice that farmers might overlook – which can be enough to get you into trouble if you overlook it.”
Using Sentinel Active, farmers can search for the right product for the job or access all the information about a product – making sure the right inputs are used to the best effect.
Having farm information in the office is a useful tool for farmers but being able to transfer this to the field and employees is where the practicality of new technology comes into play. Using the Web app function for tablets and smartphones, employees know precisely what they need to do and can then relay back reports straight from the field.
“Transferring field plans to the tractor cab and guidance systems – and subsequent information back again – ties jobs together seamlessly to save on time, all while keeping track of in-field activity, costs and satisfying compliance,” says Mr Cox. “Farmers need to aim to be good everywhere, all the time, to get a good yield average across the farm. Having decent precision data to see what is going on is tremendously beneficial when getting a crop off to a good start.”