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The tough weather conditions of the past six months have presented growers with a range of unusual challenges this spring.

Satellite imagery gathered by SOYL has revealed a huge increase in variation in canopy when compared to this time last year.

The team at SOYLsense is advising growers to use the imagery they gather to analyse their particular crop requirements and then apply nutrition variably.

Using remote sensing technology, variation in crop canopy development is identified, calibrated and then managed using variable rate application of nitrogen. This avoids wasted nutrients in some areas and under application in others.

Many growers are struggling with thin, poorly established winter crops and using satellite imagery will improve their prospects. Simon Griffin, SOYL Technical Manager, says: "Although plants may be small, farmers can improve overall results, provided they assess their crop and adjust application rates to address differences in development.

"In the growing season SOYLsense customers can expect up to 15 images of their farm, receiving a new image every week to ten days. This is much more than many of those who offer similar services. This is a significant investment but is a vital component of making accurate recommendations.

"Growers are facing a varied picture this year and a number of different scenarios are emerging. Some have managed to get their crops in last winter, some have only drilled in the last few weeks and of course, some are yet to drill at all! But the constant is that soil nitrogen levels are generally low so most crops that are established will need a nitrogen boost as soon as soil temperatures rise.

"Those crops that were sown last winter are faring quite well in most places but there is this huge variation in what they need coming through loud and clear in our imagery results.

"On backward crops, growers may wish to go with an early small application of nitrogen across the crop. In such cases it may be tempting to continue with blanket application throughout the season. However, once crops are in, and the weather hopefully picks up then plants will move through the growth stages quickly - and this is when variation will be apparent. Therefore, it will still be beneficial to monitor canopy using imagery over the next few months - even on crops that are backward at this stage."

Over 600 farms are already signed up to use SOYLsense nitrogen services with many more signing up daily as the extent of in-field variation this season becomes clear.

SOYLsense shows yield responses of between 3% and 8% when compared with a standard flat rate application.

The service costs £6.50 per hectare and a GPS system can be hired for £350 or purchased for £995.  A typical 5% yield response is worth over £80/ha and a yield response of less than 0.5% pays for the service.

Simon concludes: "The message is that one of the results of the conditions over the last few months is a significant variation in canopy and therefore nutrition requirements. Assess your crop on a field by field basis using SOYLsense so that you can make sensible and cost effective nutrition plans. Don't be tempted to blanket apply throughout the season."

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