Posted 12 July 2014
Harper Adams University recently hosted a two day course on Sustainable Precision Agronomy for a group of PepsiCo agronomists and senior agro managers from across Europe. Dr Sven Peets, lecturer in mechatronics and agricultural engineering reports:
“The objective of the course was to introduce the precision farming technologies and identify new directions and applications for the company. We began with an introduction to precision agriculture, its evolution over the last two decades, methods currently available, and the assessment of soil variability and the effect of soil variability on crops, in a presentation by Professor Dick Godwin, of Harper Adams.
“Dr Jana Galambošová, Slovak University of Agriculture, then covered Global Navigation Satellite Systems, factors to be considered when using machine guidance and variable rate application, and Geographical Information System. The last presentation of day one focussed on Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) – the effect of soil compaction, benefits of CTF and the challenges of CTF, by Dr Tim Chamen, CTF Europe.
“The first day concluded with a visit to the Harper’s CTF trial field, led by Harper Adams postgraduate researcher Emily Smith, and a live demonstration of Real Time Kinematic (RTK) machine guidance both for parallel tracking and field boundary mapping by Dr Sven Peets, Dr Simon Woods and Sean Lewis, all from Harper Adams.
“The second day started with an introduction to remote sensing for agriculture, covering satellite-based methods validated by on-the-ground measurements, by Emeritus Professor John Taylor, Cranfield University. Mark Jarman, from Ursula Agriculture, led further discussion of remote sensing, from the viewpoint of capabilities of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle-based data capture and analysis. This was followed by a demonstration flight by Jonathan Gill, Harper Adams/HighObs.
“Issues with yield maps and application model of yield maps were discussed by Dr Mark Moore, from AGCO. As an example of a successful precision farming training programme, the HGCA’s BePrecise programme was introduced by HGCA Consultant Ian Beecher-Jones,
“Essential parts of precision agriculture are efficient data management and decision making. Software applications for capturing and handling of farm data, and providing decision support for managers, were presented by Peter Henley, Farmade. Issues of financial viability were addressed by Professor Godwin in a presentation where the economics of precision agriculture were quantified and assessed.
“Excellent presentations by the speakers triggered interesting and inspiring discussions amongst the group. The key conclusions of the course were that yield prediction and yield monitoring are essential tools; remote sensing applications are valuable sources of information; immediate solutions for unification of data management are required; precision farming information about crop variability will indicate underlying soil and water management problems; further training and courses to disseminate knowledge are required.
“The event was a great success and very valuable and constructive for both PepsiCo and Harper Adams.”