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How does precision farming work in crop protection?

Sustainability does not have to be empty talk

Thomas Lühmann is managing director and head of fertilization and plant protection at the Gleina agricultural cooperative and farms around 3,600 hectares in the southernmost part of Saxony-Anhalt. The large fields are framed by many steep-slope vineyards, which are not only a visual highlight. "In local agriculture, large fields are cultivated that require the associated know-how in machinery to work effectively and efficiently, saving time and money. Sustainable agriculture is a mandatory production method for us," says Thomas Lühmann. In crop protection, the farmer now wants to test the method of site-specific application of crop protection products with the Yara N-Sensor® ALS 2.

Within a short time, the system was set up on a Horsch Leeb PT 270. Small and chic, the N-sensor towers above the self-propelled sprayer in a resolved design. The ALS 2 sensor is the latest model currently offered by Agricon. It is insensitive to dew coating on the plants, which is especially important for crop protection applications. The N-Sensor can be fitted to any mounted, trailed and self-propelled sprayer, regardless of manufacturer.

After our technical advisor Steffen Waldmann has discussed the dosages with the farmer, it is now time to start spraying in the winter barley.

The N-Sensor was demonstrated in the crop protection Absolute module. The growth regulator Camposan-Extra was sprayed in combination with the fungicides Gigant and Comet. This was the second growth regulator measure to winter barley in EC stage 39 - 41.

Around 100 l/ha total variation

Averaged over all 6 fields with a good 100 ha area, the winter barley had reached a mean N uptake of 135 kg N/ha. The minimum values were below 100 kg N/ha and the maximum values were around 170 kg N/ha. Thus, the most developed and strongest stands had reached almost twice the biomass compared to the weaker stands. Consequently, the application rates were adjusted between 100 and 200 l/ha to the stand situation.

Objective adjustment instead of feeling

The essential difference to the conventional distribution of crop protection products is that with sensor-controlled application, the same application rate is always applied for the same situation. This is possible because the N-sensor is an objective measuring device on the one hand and is calibrated to the crop situation with absolute values on the other. The biggest mistake in dosage on the part of the farmer is usually that stand differences are only evaluated within one season. For example, an N uptake in a low-growth season of perhaps 135 kg N/ha is a very well-developed stand. In another, more vigorous season, it may be more normal or lower. If the farmer relies with his decisions only on the "felt average" in this year and on "more or less" he would apply a maximum amount in one case and a minimum amount in the other case. This means that he applies significantly different amounts for the same situation, i.e. either too much or too little pesticide.

Sensor-based crop protection therefore objectifies the correct dosage.

Absolute module leads to 45 €/ha each advantage

In the process of site-specific and sensor-based application of growth regulators and fungicides, the expert module suggests a basic dosage based on the variety, the current infection, the current weather conditions and the long-term assessment. This is based on the theoretical maximum nitrogen uptake of a crop type and the given EC stage. From this, a maximum dosage is determined. The sensor then continuously adjusts to the currently measured nitrogen uptake values as it moves across the field. The absolutely calibrated control functions adjust the basic dosage to the crop depending on the situation. Stands with high nitrogen uptake receive a high dosage, while weak stands are deregulated. The maximum permissible application rates are not exceeded.

This type of crop-specific dosing results in additional benefits of around €45/ha for both growth regulators and fungicides due to a positive yield effect and savings in resources.

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