Using smart data to maximise fertiliser ROI

UK growers are adopting smart, digital farming at a rapid rate, but as fertiliser prices escalate and new environmental regulations roll out, their use can become even more useful.

That’s the view of Scott Millar, account manager at Farmplan, a leading agricultural software specialists. he said that, increasingly, smart tools could help growers get the most from their data – something that will not only help mitigate soaring fertiliser costs, but remain resilient and ready to demonstrate compliance and sustainability.

“The more historical data you have in your system – and the more accurate it is – the more you can achieve,” said Mr Millar. “One area where we often see a gap is yield data. As a result, it can become difficult for your Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) to truly anticipate what your crops need.”

This is important for two reasons. Currently, fertiliser prices are exceedingly high, so even minor inefficiencies will quickly stack up and create a significant financial drain. Another is that growers are increasingly being asked to not only make positive environmental changes on their farm, but demonstrate those changes in action.

Smart data tools allow growers to be more granular and targeted in their work, even at the most basic level. “You can take your unique circumstances into account,” he pointed out.

“Smart devices are on the rise and advanced software can turn that information into tangible value. With our software, Gatekeeper, you can set variable rate plans and send those out to your spreader. If you need to tweak things on the day, you can.

“You can also bring back the ‘as applied’ data afterwards and automatically update all your records. If you’ve used less fertiliser than expected your stock balance and rates are adjusted, as an example. Then you’ve got some extra N in the bank for later in the season,” he argued.

Growers can pull down industry standard analysis from the RB209 fertiliser recommendations or, if they have their own products tested, utilise that info to determine the most profitable and effective route forward.

Despite the uptake in data tools and digital technology, many in the industry neglect yield monitoring and recording. This, said Mr Millar, could be a costly mistake: “How do you know what you did last year was right if you can’t see it? Yield data is so important. Even if you’ve got a broad overview, there are always variables.

“Having that data and analysing it is the best way to understand where you are and how to get where you want to go,” he said.

First published in The Scotsman

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