Tuesday 31 July 2018

Precision Ag update - a UK & Europe perspective - Part #2

The second part of the CB Norwood’s Precision Ag tour was spent in Europe with machinery companies. First, we visited Vaderstad at Hogstadv√§gen in Sweden, then Lemken in Germany, Horsch in Germany and finally New Holland in Belgium. All these companies looked after us very well, for which we were most grateful.

Arriving in Sweden, the first thing we noticed was how dry it was and how it was reflected in the stressed crops we saw travelling to the Vaderstad factory. The same could be said of the crops we saw in Germany, but to a slightly lesser extent.

Vaderstad showed us a vast range in cultivation and drilling equipment but from a precision ag point view I was most interested in their E system and Seed Eye technology and what it could mean to us in terms of precision seed placement. The sensors installed in each seed tube on the drill form the basis of the V√§derstad SeedEye. This gives the ability to register each seed that is metered and drilling can be controlled down to the exact number of seeds per square metre. 

Figure 1: Vaderstad SeedEye system
Next we went to Germany and visited Lemken, where we looked about their HQ and factory. Again, a lot of cultivation and other equipment but more of the traditional systems with various plough options. However, they too have very accurate seed planting options which would be very useful for precision seeding.

Figure 2: Lemken precision drill seeding system using air pressure
When we got to Horsch we had seen how the other companies worked but I was surprised at the level of trial work and other extensions Horsch were working on and how they were thinking outside the box. They were doing trials on the effect of difference press wheels on root establishment, different row spacing, seed rates and fertiliser rates down the spout. It was a very comprehensive setup and very interesting results.

They ran through their different drilling options including the Avatar with 3 hoppers to put different seed rates and types such as hybrid wheat in different zones plus fertiliser in the third hopper.

Figure 3: The effect of different sowing techniques on root development in Oil Seed Rape

Figure 4: Horsch Avatar drill with 3 hoppers

Figure 5: Trials on seed and fertiliser rates at different row spacing
 All the systems we saw lent themselves well to Precision Ag and accurate seed rates per metre, which can be used in combination with your EM maps, or other sources of spatial data such as yield maps or satellite imagery.

On the second day at Horsch we had a good look around their sprayers and the very impressive pro plus boom system that followed the crop canopy at a height of just 30cm with various nozzle options including 25cm spacing that reduced the effect of wind speed on your spraying window, giving more spray days which is a very useful feature everyone needs.

Figure 6: Top spec nozzle system with 4 nozzles every 50cm and 2 nozzles at 25cm in-between

Figure 7: Off to see the sprayer demos at Horsch
 Michael Horsch also touched on the next stage in their sprayer development, with autonomous machines that sprayed by themselves and the cameras learn the weeds they see in field and can map them. All very exciting and not that far away. High spec sprayers are very useful for variable rate PGR’s (plant growth regulators) or liquid nitrogen for example.

The final company we went to see were New Holland, with their machinery from combines to Foragers. Using their Precision Land Management system on control and measure. Yield maps are the starting point for a lot of people’s journey into Precision Ag.

Figure 8: New Holland combine open for investigation!

If you have any questions or want anymore detail on what we saw, just get in touch. 

On a personal level, it was great to see what machinery is available and what we could do with it in the Precision Ag space and to see that we’re not far behind the northern hemisphere in terms of PA adoption, and in some instances, are actually leading the way.