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Bayer Crop Science

Water Utilisation Tool To Help With Irrigation Planning?

Article overview

Some smart functionality within Bayer’s FieldView platform could have more relevance than many growers realise. That’s the realisation for the team at potato enterprise G H Hoyles Ltd of Long Sutton, Lincs.

Some smart functionality within Bayer’s FieldView platform could have more relevance than many growers realise. That’s the realisation for the team at potato enterprise G H Hoyles Ltd of Long Sutton, Lincs.

Within the Field Health Suite is a novel water utilisation tool. It monitors how much moisture crops are capturing on a daily basis. Given the range of imaging options within the programme to some it might appear slightly superfluous but not perhaps for growers with crops that require irrigation.

David Hoyles and farm manager Henry Richardson signed up to FieldView to help manage cereal crops but now they feel the platform might have a wide role across their rotation.

David and Henry use soil neutron probes to assist with potato irrigation. These sophisticated probes work well but they come with a price tag, so both wondered if FieldView can do a similar job.

Last season was the first where they looked at water utilisation data, probably as much out of curiosity as for steering crop management decisions. But the information captured by FieldView reflected the data from the physical probes. “It was very dry here during spring and summer but what was recorded within FieldView correlated closely with that of the physical probes,” notes David

David Hoyles

FieldView data hasn’t been used for any irrigation management decisions yet but it could be in the future, especially as the cost of the probes prevents their widespread use across the farm. “If we know the crop water use by day through growth or evaporation, we can calculate the soil moisture deficit and refine our irrigation strategy,” adds Henry.

It is too early to say whether FieldView can replace the probes or be used to build a further layer of information to base decisions on but they plan to look again this season.

They might also look to trial wheat irrigation again this spring. Regardless of what is behind climate variability, what is beyond doubt is that the UK is experiencing some highly unseasonal seasons. If climate models are right this pattern can be expected.

Certainly, the rainfall data for Long Sutton makes interesting viewing. Despite a few isolated years, the annual mean has remained reasonably consistent. What hasn’t, is when that rain has fallen. The points on the weather graphs fluctuate wildly, in recent seasons April has been the driest month.

Ironically, it has been the weather that has made wheat irrigation trials a bit of a washout. For the last two seasons rain has arrived soon after trials have begun. “We’ve just started the irrigation trials and both times it has chucked it down,” quips David. “Looking at the FieldView data hasn’t revealed any yield benefit.”

Henry adds that the thinking hasn’t just been about putting on water to help correct soil moisture deficit, another aim of these is to look at nutrient utilisation efficiency. “If we’ve applied some fertiliser, we want it to cycle and get into plants. Irrigation might help in this regard.”

This detailed approach encompasses their management strategy. David and Henry are always seeking those extra refinements that drive farm performance further. “For us, trials on farm are about personal data, relevant information for our soil type, rotation and climate. Our silts are pretty niche and if something works here in a trial it will in our fields. We’re always looking to be more efficient, reduce costs and relate to what the customer wants,” notes David.

Henry Richardson - Farm Manager

There’s a host of innovative trials in this season’s programme with the general thrust being one of resilience, FieldView will be used to help manage and evaluate this research. “We rarely get steady rainfall through the month so we’ve got to look at how we optimise crop biomass and yield when it is particularly dry or wet,” adds David

This ability to trial things on-farm is what separates FieldView from other digital and telematic platforms. They both feel it takes on-farm trials to a higher standard.

Henry considers the Yield Zoning tool as a particularly useful piece of functionality. “With previous trials we’ve had to run everything over the weighbridge, it meant extra trailers back and forth which slowed everything down. It also restricted us from undertaking trials in some of our more distant fields, which have differing soil type and cropping. Now, we can do more and bigger trials and getting our data is seamless. It is just the click of a button,” he concludes.

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