The Covid pandemic has illustrated the point in how quickly situations can change.
Just over 12 months back a meal out with friends or a trip to a rugby or football match was taken for granted. With Covid restrictions easing we can dine together, but only outdoors and stadiums are beginning to open their doors for a select, and lucky, few fans.
Like most in farming, the Boothman family from Malton, Yorkshire have got used to change – whether that be legislative, consumer habits or changing disease, pest or weed threats.
And with greater good on the way further change is inevitable, and these could be substantial. Which is why the Boothman family want greater insight to improve farm management decisions.
We catch up with Chris this time as he is applying fertiliser to a crop of RAGT Planet. It’s appropriate because Chris and brother Ben want to analyse their precision-led approach more thoroughly.
The next phase in their evaluation is to link up drill and sprayer to FieldView to look at further refinement to precision ag strategies. He describes it as ‘joining all our dots up’, what Chris and brother Ben want to know is what is working and what can be improved to boost performance across fields. “We’re looking to drill down into every field and every part of its management,” he notes.
Chris and Ben are trialling Bayer’s digital platform Climate FieldView. They’ll use biomass maps in the Field Health section to help create prescriptive maps
But a greater asset is the ability to focus in on small or irregular field areas. “We’ve got the ability to select individual equipment passes or can use a freehand drawing tool to select any part of a field. It means we can take as drilled or applied data and correlate that precisely with yield outcome. It will help us refine what we are doing well and where we can do better.”
They also want to capture the cost of undertaking variable operations. “If we can add in fuel, labour and machinery depreciation with input purchases we are getting a very good picture of margin across a field. That is going to be a big asset moving forward.”
The spring barley is looking good at the moment. Hopefully, the Boothmans can pocket a malting premium but it is in heavier ground so getting fertiliser ‘spot on’ will be important to meet the spec.
The move to more spring cropping is down to change. The emergence of resistant black-grass means greater emphasis on cultural controls. But it wasn’t just down to this. Heavy, wet soils can be difficult to work, impairing condition and impacting on farm rotation.
Adapting to meet change is also the reason the Boothmans invested in a John Deere 750A direct drill. It has already come in useful after the wet weather made some operations impossible. “When the weather turned in mid-March, soils dried out quickly and we realised we had a narrow window to go. The flexibility of having a direct drill meant we knew there was sufficient moisture to get crops away. Had we had gone through with plough and subsoiler we’d have missed it and the seed wouldn’t have chitted.”
But they won’t be axing the conventional tillage kit. Their view is that rarely ‘a one size fits all’ suits farming. “Who knows what next season will bring. We might need to go the inversion route,” says Chris.
With lockdown easing the family are spending more time together again, but the signs that life isn’t back to normal is that the re-start of the rugby union National League 2 season is still to be confirmed. Ben might have to wait until September before he takes to the field in a competitive game again.