Already using precision farming systems such as variable rate drilling, Kensworth farming business DH Woods & Sons has been impressed with the level of detail available through Hutchinsons digital farming platform, Omnia.
“We have always approached variable rate drilling with a mindset that it is not about saving seed, but ensuring that we are using seed as efficiently as we can; drilling the right amount of seed for the soil in a particular area at a certain time. It’s all about marginal gains, even a 1% improvement in yields pays for any extra seed that may be required,” said David Woods.
“Historically we have based our plans on a limited amount of data based on more traditional methods of soil sampling which then created ‘zones’ across fields.”
The farm was Terramapped in the summer of 2022, with Mr Woods moving over to the Omnia system. He said that he has been very impressed with the level of detail available, showing clear variation in the soils that had not been seen before.
“It has brought about a complete step change in the level of information and given us a much deeper insight into what is happening in our soils than we ever thought possible.”
The system provides high-definition mapping of all common nutrient properties, pH, soil texture, organic matter and CEC, as well as elevation and plant available water.
“This offers a unique understanding of how and why soil performs the way it does, and highlights in-field variations with clear digital maps. Analysing the data through Omnia, further allows tailored management plans and variable application maps to be created quickly and easily,” explained Omnia sales manager, Chris Hoskins, who has worked closely with Mr Woods to introduce the system to the business.
Mr Woods said: “TerraMap made it pretty clear that we had been generating variable rate plans on quite shallow and inaccurate data. For example, pH is actually much more variable than we thought, as well as our soil texture.
“So going forward we will use this new level of data from TerraMap to generate much more accurate and precise drilling plans that work on a sub-field basis.
“The dynamics of factors within fields are always changing and it’s important to take account of this. The day before we drill a field, we always walk it, just to confirm what the plans are telling us to do and then if we need to tweak the plans we do – say for example if there are slug issues that we need to compensate for.”
The system also includes yield performance mapping, enabling growers to identify areas of fields by categorising them in terms of consistency of performance.
“It’s all very well looking at one year of yield data, but the real value is to be able to overlay several years of yields which give you the trends – and this is significant,” Mr Woods said.
“In doing so, we have identified areas of fields that are inconsistent- don’t yield well year in and out – so we can focus on why and what can be done to address this, or where underlying problems cannot be rectified, we may consider taking these out of production and putting them into some sort of environmental stewardship option.
“Looking at an overview of yield performance over several years allows us to make much more informed strategic business decisions going forward.
“Omnia is not fussy about using data from other systems so we were able to input all of the old yield maps, and soil information into the system and then and overlaying this information with more recent yield and Terramap data.”
Mr Hoskins added: “The next step is to input actual financial costings information into Omnia and use its cost of production mapping functionality to highlight areas of the farm and individual fields that can consistently deliver a profit, and those that cannot.”