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Digital Cropping. Decode your site – understand your yield

Hall 15, Stand G31


Following successful Smart Farming special shows at Agritechnica 2011 and 2013, this valuable look at how the latest technologies can be used to aid decision-making in agriculture returns again this year, but with a new, Digital Cropping label at Agritechnica 2015 in Hanover 8-14th November.

As the technology has moved on, there is now so much more to Smart Farming than simply using satellites to steer tractors or combines. We are now truly at the stage where digital records can be used to make the most important strategic decisions about how crops are managed.

Digital Cropping, as distinct from the traditional (analogue) farm notebook, where crop data was recorded and used to inform future growing plans, is the perfect tag for this new way of working. It is wholly aligned to the new world of “big data”, where decisions are taken in real time using the latest information about the crop. Working the “old” way can be likened to managing your business by looking in the rear-view mirror.

Lack of supporting tools

According to the head of the Digital Cropping special show, Dr. Klaus Erdle, in the past a large number of precision farming systems have been offered to farmers for collecting information about their farming operations, but there has been a lack of supporting tools to turn the pure data into sensible decisions or outcomes.

“Smart farming should help farmers make decisions to improve their production,” he says, “and software tools should support them by helping to interpret soil maps or crop data offered by satellite pictures or sensor data.

“Digital cropping is about closing the gap between information and implementation by offering solutions to support decisions for taking the right measures in crop management.”

In his introduction to the Smart Farming special show at Agritechnica 2013, Dr. Erdle made the point that precision farming was mainly about collecting information, but the next step of how to use the information was barely comprehensible to practical farmers.

“You could scan the field with a crop sensor to assess plant growth,” he says. “In some parts of the field the crop growth was compromised and sensors showed that nitrogen was missing at these specific sites. However, the sensors can only accurately predict a nitrogen deficit if all other nutrients (for example phosphate and potassium) are not missing. So, is applying more nitrogen really the answer?”

Analysing multiple information sources

Now, using a Digital Cropping approach that follows the big data ethos of analysing multiple sources of information – including soil maps, application maps of measures taken earlier in the year, yield maps of previous years and weather data combined – in a suitable software package, a farmer may discover that the sandy soil at specific sites does not support nitrogen uptake and drought might be the reason for poor crop growth.

“A decision might be made to decrease fertilizer input because even high input rates will not lead to high yields on this part of the field,” Dr. Erdle says. “By decreasing the nitrogen input, the farmer optimizes the input/output ratio and avoids ecologically harmful losses of fertilizer or pesticides.”

In the past five years, the idea of growing more food with shrinking resources has become much more important. Agriculture is now facing major challenges when it comes to increasing the production of raw materials, food and fodder in a sustainable way.

It is clear, therefore, that one of the most important prerequisites is the knowledge of the characteristics of the land that you have available for production. Only if you understand the soil quality, nutrient supply, water availability, yield potential and so on, can you establish an optimal crop stand optimised for the given conditions.

Solutions link and interpret data

Smart Farming now offers a number of electronic solutions for linking and interpreting data collected by precision farming systems. At Agritechnica 2015, the "Digital Cropping. Decode your site – understand your yield" Special feature will help farmers to choose the right system out of different technologies for data collection, and various approaches to combine and analyze the data to optimize their individual management system.

For farmers, contractors or consultants, the special feature offers a unique information platform to compare systems and offers at a single location. They will be able to evaluate and choose the optimal solution to use digital site information for their farming system.

The technologies on show will include: ground sensors; satellite data; soil sampling; forecast models; yield mapping; soil mapping; application cards; yield potential maps; and farm soil maps.

Take the opportunity to get in direct contact with the specialists at Agritechnica 2015.

Source: DLG