Precise analysis as a secret of success

USE OF INFORMATION SYSTEMS FOR MONITORING SOILS AND SOWS PROVIDES REDUCTION OF NON-PRODUCTION EXPENSES.

Now the whole process of precision farming is closely related to working with various electronic maps - fields, heterogeneous soil properties, mineral fertilization, and the like. That is why one of the main elements of this system is modern software that will allow processing a large amount of cartographic information of various formats, laboratory analysis data of soil, accumulate information on fields, prepare tasks for conducting technological operations. Let's try to provide our own recommendations for optimizing these complex and costly processes, which, with the right approach, save huge amounts of money.

THE FIRST STEP AT THE PREPARATION STAGE

Having experience in implementing various projects on land bank registration, keeping electronic field passports and technological maps, machinery management systems, and satellite monitoring of crops for dozens of agricultural holdings in Ukraine and CIS countries, which together process more than 1 million hectares, we may confidently state the following: the first step for any work should be to obtain precise contours of fields. From the availability of quality contours and understanding the size of the fields, everything depends on the budgeting of the seeding campaign at the beginning of the year, the creation of differentiated fertilization cards, and so on. Two main directions for obtaining precise contours that we use for our customers are measurements of field contours using professional instruments and a high-precision signal and creating maps based on archive space or aerial photography. We recommend using space imagery for farms, agroholdings that rent more than 10,000 hectares. Experience shows that this gives not only the qualitative contours of the fields, but also the actual photo of the terrain (you can understand where the forest belts grew, bushes appeared where the swamp in the fields), a network of highways, hydrography, etc. For example, working with one of the Ukrainian agricultural holdings, which treats about 40,000 hectares, we discovered more than 1,500 hectares due to the space imagery materials, which were unsuitable for cultivation, but for which considerable funds were allocated annually. The savings amounted to more than 1 million a year. And if to add to this work the construction of the electronic land cadastre system with all land shares on the map, the binding of contract registers, the potential for savings and efficiency can be found much more.

AGROCHEMICAL SOIL ANALYSIS

Having an information system with precise electronic contours and field passports, it is possible to proceed to the next stage - conducting agrochemical soil analysis. This stage is fundamentally important, since the calculation of the fertilizing and the final yield depend on the quality of the data obtained on the heterogeneous soil properties. Use in agriculture analysis of a single general sample from the field - whether it is data from Institute of soil protection or modern new laboratories, is impractical. In fact, you need to split the fields into elementary areas (5 or 10 hectares) and make one mixed sample from each of them - only then on the basis of laboratory data you can make some decisions on fertilizing. There is also a question of choosing a laboratory for soil research. I will give one more example of our last projects in two agro-enterprises, the land bank of which is approximately 5,000 ha. One of them took samples of soil in 5 hectares and did a basic analysis (NPK, humus, acidity) in state laboratories. The second farm operated with field that had an area of 10 hectares, and also used basic analysis in new modern laboratories. The budget for each of the farms was about 225 000 UAH. That is within the limits of one budget it is possible to plan various variants of work with a focus on quality of analyzes or on an amount of elementary fields. However, in any case, a large budget is needed, so farmers need to look for opportunities to optimize it.

SATELLITE MONITORING

Today there are two sources of information that can help not only improve the selection of soil samples, but also make more correct decisions about carrying out certain technological operations in crop production. These sources are:

  • yield maps for company fields. This source of information is not expensive in terms of budget, but difficult in terms of the process itself. There are many nuances — the presence of special sensors, the availability of modern agricultural machinery, which makes sense to put them, calibrating the sensors for each culture, a different level of humidity (a very difficult process), converting data from on-board computers into a single cartographic system, and others. However, those who pass this stage from A to Z will receive yield maps for specific fields;
  • Historical and operational data of satellite monitoring of the state of crops according to the NDVI index (biomass). Historical data on the development of biomass by crops of past years on specific fields make it possible to create a map of the productivity of these fields. Online monitoring will provide an opportunity to obtain up-to-date information on the state of crops for today, as well as on what fields crops develop — from the first shoots to harvesting. This source is absolutely affordable for all agricultural producers. Today, we provide weekly information on the state of crops of the company, which collectively process more than 200,000 hectares.

The use of such information sources will help optimize the budget for the agrochemical survey — it will be necessary to break into elementary areas only where the worst yields or biomass were obtained, and where only a few selections were obtained. From our experience, optimization can reach 30-40% of the budget for agrochemical inspection, which fully pays off investments in satellite monitoring.

ANALYSIS OF INFORMATION AND DECISION-MAKING

Having all the information in the software and inserting different maps, field contours, crop rotation maps, yields of different crops, biomass development and a map of heterogeneous soil properties, the company can perform calculations, determine the potential fertility of these soils, develop cultivation technologies, recommendations on fertilizer systems, processing soil, etc. The company can do this on its own, but can turn to experienced consultants. After receiving specific recommendations, a decision is made to carry out certain technological operations and provide the necessary information — a fertilization or seeding map. The software allows you to create a card, quickly unload it in an exchange format and load it into the on-board computer/display.

Summing up all the above written, I want to say that a systematic approach to the implementation of precision farming, especially with regard to information support for decision-making, significantly improves its effectiveness. Investing in the development of precision farming, the company from the outset should plan the information infrastructure and sources of information.

Artem Belenkov
Author
Artem Belenkov
Founder

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