21st October 2016
"Precision farming has a proven track record of delivering measurable benefits, and advances in technology and better support are bringing those benefits to more farmers every season," was the message delivered by SOYL's commercial director, Simon Parrington when he addressed the Precision Farming Show in Newark this week.
Simon was the first speaker at the event's programme of seminars.
"The UK leads the world in the practical application of precision farming and growers are benefitting from the wide range of services and technology that is now available. In just 20 years we have moved from a situation where most decisions were made at whole-farm or individual field level to one where many decisions are now made at a zone, hectare, acre or even individual plant level. This shift from a blanket approach to be more targeted means we can consistently get more both from inputs and from the crop itself.
"The UK is suited to precision farming as our relatively high yielding climate means a number of modest 3 or 4% yield increases really make a difference to overall farm profitability."
Mr Parrington showed the Precision Farming Show audience a number of long term trials where variable rate seed and nitrogen have been compared with a traditional flat rate policy. Variable rate nitrogen produced a confirmed yield benefit over ten years of 4.6%. Meanwhile, variable rate seed showed a yield benefit of 3.5%.
These trials clearly demonstrated the benefits of precision techniques. However, Mr Parrington said that a key challenge facing many farmers is ensuring they capitalise on precision's potential even during busy times of the farming year.
"We call it the 'farm track challenge'. I haven't met a farmer yet who doesn't want to be more precise in his decision making but at certain times of year it gets very busy on farm and then if they hit a blip with technology, it can stall the process. If kit goes wrong and a grower feels they can't quickly get it working in the field, they will feel pressured into reverting to traditional application methods. This is why SOYL offers sound, tested technology and 24/7 technical support.
"With a team of over 80 colleagues, we are able to provide an unparalleled level of customer support. When a SOYL client needs help we know they have to be up and running in minutes as there is no time for hold ups during drilling, harvest or the spring crop protection peak.
"Usually support advice needed in the field is straightforward but absolutely critical to getting the job done. For example, if a grower is unsure which button to press to make an application or where a cable from their iPad connects in the tractor, then all they need is a simple answer but they need that answer now! Our growers know we will be there to help. Of course we also help with more complex queries, such as how to link yield maps together and interpret them and even bespoke customer training but that all takes place at quieter times of the year."
This support is provided by SOYL's local area manager team, backed by office-based technical advisors. A testing area at SOYL's HQ hosts all common GPS systems and this enables technical advisors to 'walk' growers through steps on screen if necessary.
"There are significant benefits from precision farming and providing a reliable, consistent level of support makes those benefits accessible for all growers."
Mr Parrington also demonstrated SOYL's range of apps and the newly upgraded MySOYL website, all of which make achieving the promise of precision crop production accessible for all realistic.
"The apps we have developed recently, such as our field scouting app iSOYLscout, reduce the entry cost for those taking the first steps into precision farming, whilst making field operations even simpler for those already involved.
"We'll carry on developing precision technology for growers and delivering it hand in hand with that vital network of support to make it work."