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The power of mapping to assess nutrient management

I thought I'd take this opportunity to introduce myself to those who don't know me, I'm Richard Markham and I am a senior technical sales consultant for Frontier's precision farming business, SOYL. I have worked in the team for 19 years and support many farmers across the UK to gain a better understanding of their farms' performance, right down to what's going on in their soils.

Working with growers to better understand their baseline can aid future management decisions that deliver yield, quality and profit margins, but ultimately, measuring and monitoring soil health, nutrient status and overall field performance can support more informed decisions about how best to manage land in the most appropriate ways. This is particularly important during a time where farms are being encouraged more than ever to adopt a range of environmentally focused actions, while still maintaining sustainable food production systems. 

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Managing your soils this season

There are a number of topics this blog could cover: the weather, inputs, grain prices, environmental options… the list goes on. But, as we make our way through this spring, I think it's worth acknowledging the continuously changing agricultural landscape and some of the routes for navigating it. I think we'd all agree that in our industry it often feels different from one day to the next, with new opportunities and challenges abound all while we're simultaneously trying to digest the latest updates.

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Variable rate nitrogen trials results

As the season has been so challenging, it's great to be able to demonstrate the positive results from our variable rate nitrogen (VRN) trials which can make a difference on farm. In this blog, we'll be talking through the benefits and value of this technology, as well as how the findings from the trials can be replicated on your farm to achieve the same positive results.

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Early nutrition strategies for winter cereals: challenges and solutions

The recent wet and mild conditions have brought early crop nutrition into sharp focus and you may be looking to address some of the negative impacts on any autumn-drilled cereal crops.

During autumn 2023, most of the UK experienced significantly above average rainfall and this depleted soils of any residual nitrogen. There's also no doubt that rooting was compromised due to waterlogging. 

This blog is a combination of insights and guidance for crop nutrition, variable rate technology and biostimulants – all of which can play an important role in your spring strategy to boost biomass and maximise profit margins. If you follow some of the below guidance, any lacklustre crops should stand the best chance of turning things around in time.

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Field grain analysis results

As we've mentioned before, the only real way to measure the effect of nitrogen is at the end of the season when we have the opportunity to analyse grain on an individual-field basis. From this, the findings can highlight the specific adjustments needed for the following season.

Frontier and SOYL Precision's field grain analysis service gives interpretation over all the essential nutrients to make sure you as a grower get the most from your data. In this blog, I'll focus on the nitrogen analysis results from this year's sampling.

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Data-based drilling – How can data support continued gains in crop performance?

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Much has already been said about the weather that we've experienced in recent months and even with some rain predicted, it is likely to be a challenging drilling season for many. For me, the weather highlights the importance of being able to understand your soils and use that information to make changes to your strategy. Whether it is the creation of the best seedbed in difficult circumstances, or the adjustment of your seed rates to attempt to counteract the conditions, often even small changes can make a big difference.

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Environmental Land Management blog series: 3/ Taking environmental management digital

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This blog is the third and final to be published as part of our Environmental Land Management blog series. In the previous blog, we looked at what you will need to do if you decide to enter your land into the arable and horticultural soils standard of the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI). You can read it here.

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Environmental Land Management blog series: 2/ Drawing a line in the sand and building a baseline of your soils

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This blog is the second to be published as part of our Environmental Land Management blog series. Our first entry covered some of the common questions we get from growers about the Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs) and the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) specifically, as well as opportunities linked to Countryside Stewardship. You can read it here.

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‘Work smarter, not harder’ by managing your environmental features digitally

This is a phrase we are all familiar with – in fact, in the past few years I've rarely gone more than two conferences or webinars without someone saying it, including me. However, now more than ever it resonates with me for our industry. Growers are increasingly having to become experts in several areas: not only are you crop production specialists but also environmental managers, accountants, HR advisors and many more things to boot.

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Use your grain sampling data to plan the next cropping year

To be frank, a sample bag of grain doesn't really tend to excite many of us. Why would it? It's just a sample, it's minute in comparison to the hard graft that's come before it. But then – if we really think about it – doesn't that make it quite a significant thing?

That bag of grain represents at least a year of hard work; significant investments, the challenges you've overcome and the opportunities you've taken. When you consider the efforts that have gone into creating that bag of grain you realise that, if we are to be completely honest, it all comes down to that bag. The fact is that it isn't just grain in there. It's information, data, learnings, it's proof of things that worked well and sometimes things that didn't.

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Enhancing farm efficiency with variable rate nitrogen – What do the latest trials results tell us?

The start of a new year is often when most of us traditionally think back to what has happened over the past 12 months before looking ahead at those to come.

Before Christmas, we published this news release announcing some exciting digital investments that have upgraded our variable rate nitrogen service for 2022. One of the most significant developments is the adoption of radar technology, meaning users can now access cloud-free imagery.

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Variable rate seed: The ability to adapt

As I begin to think about variable rate seed, I can't help getting out of my head that for the past year there has been a lot of talk of change and adapting within agriculture. The more I thought about it, I concluded (probably later than many others) that agriculture has always been a case of adapting whether it be to new products, new machinery, new guidance or the ever-changing weather.

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Opportunities to make soil sampling pay

With a bullish global fertiliser market pushing prices up as we approach the new season, the importance of soil sampling to help optimise inputs is arguably greater than ever before. When you combine this with the recent Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) release stating growers can be financially rewarded for monitoring and improving soil health, it's not surprising to learn that sampling is becoming a greater priority.

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Getting direction from your maps

​As we head into another harvest, it's important to get your bearings and plan your route ahead for the next and following cropping years. The concept of 'mapping your future' isn't new to everyone, but it has grown in significance following recent announcements about the Environment Land Management (ELM) scheme and the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI). In fact, specific 'standards' or 'land management actions' have been highlighted as a key part of the SFI and monitoring activity and results is central to the scheme.

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Economic and yield returns: The results of SOYL’s variable rate nitrogen trials in 2020

At SOYL, we have been running an extensive precision farming research and development programme for nearly 30 years. The work is central to the value of our technology and services, and today we now possess one of the largest trial databases in the world. A significant part of this work involves trials to compare our variable rate application approach against flat rate applications.

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Using grain protein to plan your nitrogen rates

The nitrogen inputs to your crops can be one of the most important factors that influence crop output and, ultimately, the profitability of your business. There is a wealth of tools and information to help guide you when it comes to applying the optimum rate of nitrogen, but how do you know if you are actually getting it right and making the best use of these applications to maximise your financial return?

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P and K blog series: The important considerations for post-harvest applications

The stark variation across the country has continued into harvest this year, with some areas completed a couple of weeks ago while others are struggling to make real headway as a result of the wet weather. Where completed, the SOYL applications team has been busy processing fertiliser recommendations ready for post-harvest P and K applications - allowing new season orders to be booked. 

For many growers though, doing this raises the question: What considerations should be made when planning P and K management?

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Understand your farm's profitability with margin maps

With an increased focus on farm finances, I am finding that there is a greater drive from our customers to combine some of the data routinely collected through precision farming to get a better insight into farm profitability.

Our margin map tool uses yield data and simple costs to produce financial performance maps that not only provide a field average, but also show the spatial variation in profitability. By including yield data and costs for multiple years, you can easily analyse financial performance across your whole rotation instead of just year by year.

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P and K blog series: Managing levels after extreme weather events

We've certainly seen Mother Nature go from one extreme to the next in recent months. Given the incredibly dry April and May experienced this spring, it is difficult to comprehend that February was actually the wettest on record. Let us not forget that this also followed the consistently above-average rainfall throughout autumn and winter too.

However, a generally kind March and early April allowed for some substantial spring cropping. While somewhat of a forced change for many, this - coupled with the extremes in weather - has significantly impacted the nutrition requirements for this and potentially next year's crops.

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P and K blog series: The building blocks of overall plant health

Phosphorus and potassium are vital for photosynthesis and water regulation – but how much of them do you need to guarantee healthy plants?

Precision technology can play an important role when it comes to successful nutrient management. With P and K in particular, there is a considerable benefit to carrying out nutrient mapping and variable rate applications of fertiliser in that you are able to individually deal with field areas that are both below, at and above the critical level. 

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