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"OneSoil helped us save $11 per hectare with variable-rate application"

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A Brazilian agronomist shares how the OneSoil app helps them save resources and manage their crops
The last four decades have seen a dramatic shift in Brazilian agriculture, with the country going from the largest food importer to the largest food exporter. This transformation is due in large part to the use of new technologies, particularly precision farming methods. We met Rodrigo Zimmer, planning manager and agronomist at Brazilian agro-industrial company AgriCrop, to find out how OneSoil is helping them apply precision farming.
The last four decades have seen a dramatic shift in Brazilian agriculture, with the country going from the largest food importer to the largest food exporter. This transformation is due in large part to the use of new technologies, particularly precision farming methods. We met Rodrigo Zimmer, planning manager and agronomist at Brazilian agro-industrial company AgriCrop, to find out how OneSoil is helping them apply precision farming.
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Calculate fertilizer and seeding rates
For variable-rate application. Detect productivity zones and create prescription maps for equipment in the OneSoil web app.
Calculate fertilizer and seeding rates
For variable-rate application. Detect productivity zones and create prescription maps for equipment in the OneSoil web app.
— Rodrigo, tell us how your company started out.

The company started back in 1953, when Hermann Karly, AgriCrop's founder, moved with his family to Brazil from Austria at the age of 8. Hermann's father and his fellow countrymen started the Entre Rios colony here and later started a farmer cooperative.
Brazil is a country with nearly perfect conditions for an agricultural company, which is what the Karly family embarked upon. By the way, we have several harvests every year, such as corn in February, soybeans in February-March, beans in April, and barley in November. Hermann's father started out on a small 20-hectare plot. After studying agriculture in Germany, Hermann came back to Brazil to continue his father's legacy. He started by renting 200 more hectares. Then, as the business grew, he rented increasingly more and invested in new technologies. In 2012, Hermann Karly together with his children (two sons and daughter) started the AgriCrop company. Hermann is now 75, but he still works on his land.

Nowadays, the company has farms in two Brazilian states: Paraná and Piaui. I work on the farm where Hermann Karly started his journey in Paraná.
— What was AgriCrop like when you joined the company?

Well, I joined the company eight years ago. Back then, most of our equipment couldn't be used for precision farming, and the farm's productivity was below average for Brazil.

Since then, the company has changed a lot. Over the last few years, we started to study carefully our fields to build up their productivity. AgriCrop has invested a lot more in modern machinery and technologies for variable-rate application. The members of the cooperative jointly own two weather stations. In addition to that, we use several precision farming applications, including the OneSoil app. As a result, we've managed to get to know our fields much better, increase the yield of soybeans (which is our main crop), and stay profitable in this highly competitive market.

We heard about OneSoil two or three years ago. The OneSoil app has helped us reduce our costs and even increase profit in some cases.
Rodrigo Zimmer in the fields of the AgriCrop company in Parana, Brazil.
— How does OneSoil help you be more effective?

Well, we had bad luck with barley crops... In 2019, our fields got hit by harsh frosts (which is common in the south of Brazil). The plants suffered terribly, especially in the low-lying sites.

We usually apply a growth regulator on the barley, but this time we didn't need to apply it to all crops.

I checked NDVI images in the app and identified the damaged areas. It turned out that in our 815-ha field, only 214 ha needed a growth regulator. The other 601 ha didn't need it anymore. In the OneSoil web app, I created a prescription map for the machinery based on NDVI zones. I applied the product to the zones where healthy crops needed it and left the damaged areas untouched. By doing that, I saved about $10,000, and the total cost of the growth regulator for the whole field fell from $15/ha to $4/ha.

Moreover, if we had applied the product to the damaged plants, it would have led to a loss in productivity.

So, by using the prescription map based on the NDVI zones in OneSoil, I saved money and avoided a drop in productivity.

— Sounds great! We're so happy to hear that the OneSoil app is helping you combat the whims of nature. How do you use the app when everything's going right?

I use the web app to monitor crop development and identify problem areas. If something goes wrong, I can go to that particular spot and check it out for myself.

I also monitor crop development using charts and compare the field conditions on different dates. The Growing Degree-Days chart really helps me to monitor crop development. (To build a chart in the OneSoil web app, go to the 'Weather' tab and select the field you want to build a chart for — OneSoil). It especially comes in handy for us in the winter.

This month, we applied fungicides according to NDVI zones. In July, some crops got damaged by frost and we did variable-rate application. We didn't apply the product to the damaged crops because they didn't need it.
To build the map, I used the nitrogen fertilizer calculator in the OneSoil web app (The OneSoil web app lets you create a prescription map based on NDVI zones — OneSoil). Applying fungicides according to NDVI zones is a thinking-outside-the-box solution, but it worked out just fine for us. We apply an application rate of 109 liters for fungicides, so I entered the following rates for each zone: 109, 109, and 0. After that, I downloaded the prescription map and uploaded it to the equipment.
Rodrigo applied fungicides only to healthy crops because the damaged crops no longer needed them.
This is the NDVI image Rodrigo used to build management zones for variable-rate application.
Just last week, I also used NDVI zones to build a map for nitrogen application.

On top of that, we do various experiments at our farm. We test fungicides, insecticides, different plant varieties on small plots. Last year, we did one with OneSoil to test variable-rate application in a barley field. The results turned out to be pretty interesting.
— Rodrigo, in your opinion, what problems does precision farming face in Brazil?

Right now, only a small percentage of Brazilian farmers can afford precision farming ('Precision farming' here means the variable-rate application of seeds, fertilizers, and chemicals in various parts of a field — OneSoil). Sure, medium and even small farmers can use multiple precision farming apps, but what are they going to do with the data? To make use of it, a farmer needs special-purpose machinery, which is expensive.

At AgriCrop, for example, it was only three years ago that we started using equipment that lets us do variable-rate application. In the United States, even a small farmer can apply such technologies. I think Brazil will move towards that in about ten years.

Interview conducted by Nadia Borontsova
Edited by Veronika Chizh
Build a prescription map for nitrogen fertilizer application!
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