The Hutchinsons Terramap system uses gamma-ray radiation technology to deliver field mapping in resolutions of more than 800 points per hectare, revealing all common nutrient levels, pH, soil texture, organic matter and CEC, as well as elevation and available plant water.
After success in the arable sector, Hutchinsons is now reporting increased interest in the Terramap service from livestock farmers. The Greasley family runs an 80 hectare farm in Derbyshire, with son Josh working as an agronomist for Hutchinsons.
“I wanted to trial Terramap on our own farm to see for myself what the cost-benefits would be of using the system on grassland, over our traditional soil sampling approach,” he explained
“I was hoping that by adopting variable rate applications of lime and only targeting areas that had a low pH, we could save enough money to cover the costs of the Terramapping and maybe if we were lucky even a bit more than that!
“For the trial. we chose a field that was just coming out of HLS that had received a small amount of lime and organic manure applied to it each year.
“We had the field soil sampled and followed up with Terramap. The results showed varied pH indices across the field ranging from 5.6-6.5. These differences can arise for several reasons such as differences in soil types, past management practices etc.
“Using the results from Terramap allowed us to create variable application maps, with a view to standardizing the pH across the field to somewhere around 6.5, as the correct pH between 6-7 maximises nutrient uptake.”
Liming helps to reduce acidity, unlocking nutrients such as phosphate and potash. By using variable rates, areas with low pH levels can be targeted to bring the whole field up to its optimal range. Looking at how this helped to reduce costs, Mr Greasley said: “Instead of all of the field receiving a blanket application of 5000kg/ha, by only applying the lime where it was needed, we only used and average of 3050kg/ha, saving almost 2000kg/ha.
“With the costs of lime and spreading at £34/t, we saved 1.95t/ha, working out at an overall cost saving of £66/ha saving.”
“At £29/ha for the standard Terramap service including OM measurement, the savings on lime have not only covered the costs of the mapping but also saved on lime.”
He continued: “We wanted to repeat the exercise in an arable context, so carried out a similar trial on a neighbouring farm, Buckhazels Farm owned by Mr Burton.
“The field had come out of wheat and was going into barley, so the field was scanned in August, before the rape was drilled.
“Soil sampling of this field showed an average pH of 6.3. However, Terramap showed this ranged from 5.8 to as high as 8 in one corner.
“We were looking to raise the average of the field to 7, and to do this via a blanket approach would mean applying an additional 4900kg/ha. However, by adopting the variable rate maps created by Terramap and only applying the lime to the areas of the fields where it was needed, only 3840kg/ha was needed, saving 1060kg/ha.
“With lime and spreading costs at £34/t, a saving of £35/ha was made. With a standard Terramap scanning costing £25/ha, once again Terramap paid for itself and more.”