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Talking arable with Neil MacLeod: New technology must not waste time

Southesk farmer, Neil MacLeod is taking part in field trials to improve the accuracy of satellite imagery.

Well, March has come in like a lion anyway, with storm Gareth, then Hannah making their presence felt over a 10 day period curtailing any sensible thought of applying spray or fertiliser.

 

With 18mm of rain and sleet arriving with the biting winds, Southesk was very quickly reminded that we are not yet out of the grip of winter, however lets hope, as the saying goes, that March will now go out like a lamb and we can start focusing on spring malting barley drilling amongst other things.


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Nutrition

All crops have received liquid ammonium sulphate prior to the drop in temperatures which will hopefully be enough to keep things moving until they receive their first split of granular ammonium nitrate.

 

I would have preferred to have had this applied by now however we are awaiting a Yara N Sensor to be fitted to one of our tractors imminently to try and improve our N application efficiency.

 

Having applied variable rate nitrogen using crop biomass imagery from both drones and satellites with mixed results, we have decided to hire the N Sensor for a year to see what benefits real time imaging can bring. We have received positive reviews from fellow users in the North of Scotland with my view being that if it does not bring results, then it will just be returned at the end of the year.

 

Trials

 

Coincidentally, we have been asked to take part in field trials using Yara’s new At Farm digital platform using satellite images to improve application accuracy.

 

I think the UK launch of this service has ruffled a few feathers in the N Sensor team, however I am looking forward to seeing the results if we get the chance to do some comparisons.

 

The most important thing, whatever system we adopt going forward (if any), is that it does not waste either mine or my operators time in terms of interpreting data and creating application recommendations, hence why the real time scanning that the N Sensor brings is currently my preferred option.

 

Protection

 

Not to get too political about this, but I do think going forward more of our subsidies will be based on environmental protection rather than enhancement, with accurate application of nutrients coming under increasing scrutiny especially for those like us in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones.

 

We have recently ordered a new telehandler, opting to move away from JCB to make way for a Kramer. There has been a JCB telehandler at Southesk since 1985 and, although it would have been nice to stick with British built, we felt having demonstrated the Kramer that it was the better machine for our needs.

Only time will tell!

Inputs

With warmer weather on the horizon we are gearing up for the first of the spray applications with our forward oilseed rape due its second light leaf spot spray of prothioconazole and tebuconazole along with boron and manganese.

 

Our winter barley due its T0 of metrafenone and epoxiconazole with growth regulator and manganese.

 

Our new spray operator is getting on well and having never operated a sprayer before has applied the liquid ammonium sulphate with ease.

 

Let us see how things progress when a five-way tank mix through the induction hopper is presented to him, however I am confident he will be fine.

Changes

 

This will be the last season for our Knight self-propelled and trailed sprayer as we await a summer delivery of our higher capacity Chafer self-propelled. Going from two sprayers to one is a decision I have mothballed for a number of years now due to the tight weather windows, blight pressure and the flexibility having two machines gives you.

 

However with more water tanks positioned around the farm and a bigger, and hopefully more reliable machine I am confident at this stage it is the right move for us. Like the forklift, only time will tell but at least this replacement is still British!

 

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