Interview with German agronimist_Cover_OneSoil Blog
"OneSoil helps me remotely check how my crops are growing and see which field is performing best"
Reading time – 10 minutes
Interview with German agronomist Aaron Schmidtman.
Aaron Schmidtman is a leading agronomist at Fürstenwalder Agrarprodukte GmbH, an agricultural product manufacturer. He plans to perform variable-rate application throughout the farm fields he works on but doesn't have suitable modern equipment. As it turned out, the day we interviewed Aaron, he saw a demonstration of a new Amazone drill at the farm. We discussed Aaron's journey to adopting precision agriculture practices and how OneSoil apps help with that.
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Aaron Schmidtman is a leading agronomist at Fürstenwalder Agrarprodukte GmbH, an agricultural product manufacturer. He plans to perform variable-rate application throughout the farm fields he works on but doesn't have suitable modern equipment. As it turned out, the day we interviewed Aaron, he saw a demonstration of a new Amazone drill at the farm. We discussed Aaron's journey to adopting precision agriculture practices and how OneSoil apps help with that.
— How did you become an agronomist? What are your current duties?

I studied Agricultural Sciences at Humboldt University in Berlin, with a concentration in corn production, fertilization, and plant nutrition. My major was in plant nutrition.
Aaron Schmidtman Portrait_OneSoil Blog
'Hello, it's me'
I'm now in charge of crop production at an agricultural company in Eastern Germany. I live in the small village of Treplin, about 5 kilometers from the Polish border. Every day, I drive from field to field in the area and monitor all the processes and farming practices we perform. I have an 8-person team of mechanics and tractor drivers who help me get all the work done properly. I'm responsible for all the decisions concerning plant production: which variety to choose, when to sow, which herbicide to use, and so on. At the end of the season, I have to justify all my decisions by showing that they resulted in high yields.
Fields near the village of Treplin delineated in the OneSoil web app_OneSoil Blog
Fields near the village of Treplin. All of them were automatically delineated in the OneSoil web app
— Tell me more about the company you work for now. How much land do you manage, which crops do you grow?

We farm on about 3,000 hectares and have 350 diary houses, for which we cultivate forage. Each year, we grow corn for silage and grain, winter rapeseed, some lupins, winter oats, soybean, and winter malting barley. However, our main crop is wheat. The average wheat harvest is 5 tons per ha in bad years and 8 tons per ha in good ones.
We're located in a dry region, so we can't get high wheat yields, but we can make sure it's of high quality, with over 13.5% protein.
We sell the crops to our partners, who ship it throughout the country, primarily to the regions of Saxony, Berlin, and Bavaria. Sometimes the wheat we produce is exported to Africa.
Corn and rapeseed fields near the Polish border
— To what extent have you adopted precision agriculture?

Currently, we're facing problems implementing and following most precision agriculture practices. The soils in our area are extremely heterogeneous. We have many plots of approximately 100 square meters with pure sand and zero fertility. Just 10 meters from them, there's an excellent strong loam where we can harvest anywhere from 11 to 12 tons of barley. That's a huge problem because there are no drills or spreaders that could change seeding or fertilizer rates at such short distances.

So by now, we've used just variable-rate seeding. Our old drill can work with the corn planting rates.
— Do you practice no-till? If so, how long have you been using it?

Because water is a limiting factor in our region, we always use no-till to reduce water losses and retain soil biota. We don't want to kill insects in our fields because they help us control pests and reduce the amount of pesticides we use. But the main point here is lowering labor costs. No-till is the only way to produce profitable crops in such a dry area.
A wheatfield with no tillage_OneSoil Blog
A wheatfield with no tillage
— As far as I know, you use the OneSoil web app. When did you start using it?

A friend of mine told me about the OneSoil web app in the spring. I found the app on Google Play, looked through it, and the first thing that crossed my mind was: "It's great, it's free, it's easy to use." The app helps me remotely check how my crops are growing with the help of NDVI and see which field is performing best.
I can detect problem areas in the field and see any risks of damage to the crops.
When you're in the field, you can't see the big picture. It seems that there's no difference in the vegetation index throughout the whole field, but the NDVI maps help spot them. They allow you to understand how well management strategies were implemented and choose the best-performing one.
Comparison between NDVI indices in the OneSoil web app_OneSoil Blog
In the OneSoil web application, you can compare the vegetation index in the field for any dates. It is useful if you need to understand how a particular plot performs
— I know that you've used the OneSoil web app for variable-rate seeding. Tell us more about that.

I calculated the corn seeding rates with your app, and it was easy. We switched up the seeding rates from field to field among three settings: 36, 56, and 76 thousand seeds per ha. An average cornfield on our farm is about 12 ha. Altogether, the corn covers 870 ha. When the rates were calculated, I downloaded the seeding map, put it on a USB flash drive, and gave it to my tractor driver. He uploaded it to the tractor's onboard computer and started planting. The whole process took approximately one and a half hours.
I think this app is very user-friendly. It's great even for people who rarely use digital products.
The cornfield where Aaron implemented variable-rate seeding_OneSoil Blog
The cornfield where Aaron implemented variable-rate seeding

Interview conducted by Tanya Kovalchuk
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