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"After the experiments, we reduced the seeding rate for sunflowers by 20% and for corn by 10%."

Reading time — 15 minutes
Discussing the joint experiments of OneSoil and Frendt for Flora A. A. Farm in Ukraine.
In 2018, Andrey Kapritsa, owner of Flora A. A. Farm in central Ukraine, decided to install an automatic section control system on sprayers. For help, he turned to Frendt, a company that implements precision farming services. Since then, Frendt and OneSoil have helped the farmer conduct experiments with variable-rate seeding and fertilizer application. OneSoil is responsible for testing hypotheses, while the Frendt team takes on the technical side of the experiments: setting up equipment, taking soil samples, upgrading machinery, and training operators.

We talked about how the experiments are conducted with Andrey Kapritsa, the farm owner; Vitaly Shuberansky, founder of Frendt; and Usevalad Henin, OneSoil's precision farming expert.
In 2018, Andrey Kapritsa, owner of Flora A. A. Farm in central Ukraine, decided to install an automatic section control system on sprayers. For help, he turned to Frendt, a company that implements precision farming services. Since then, Frendt and OneSoil have helped the farmer conduct experiments with variable-rate seeding and fertilizer application. OneSoil is responsible for testing hypotheses, while the Frendt team takes on the technical side of the experiments: setting up equipment, taking soil samples, upgrading machinery, and training operators.

We talked about how the experiments are conducted with Andrey Kapritsa, the farm owner; Vitaly Shuberansky, founder of Frendt; and Usevalad Henin, OneSoil's precision farming expert.
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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.
— Andrey, please tell us more about your farm. How big is it, what do you grow, and how did you decide that you need precision farming?

Andrey: My grandfather established our farm in 1991. It's located in Vinnytsia Region near the border with Moldova. My grandfather started off with 60 ha, but now the farm's total area covers 1,200 ha. We grow wheat, sunflower, corn, and occasionally rapeseed.

I oversee everything on the farm. I have an agricultural background because my grandfather sent me off to study, since he believed that every farm needs its own agronomist. I've been taking care of everything on the farm since I was 21. About eight years ago, we bought our first imported tractor, a New Holland 7060. I remember that it was the first such tractor on a small farm in our area. We had to install autopilot on the new equipment. Installing autopilot was the start of precision farming for me.
Today, Flora boasts an entire fleet of modern precision farming equipment.
There was very little information about precision farming technologies at that time. I had to figure it out myself, mostly by watching YouTube videos from farmers in Europe and the United States. After that, I started analyzing soil by zones, buying new seeders, and using section control systems. I noticed the savings in seeds and fertilizers right away. We stopped losing yield in places that used to have overlaps, resulting in some great yield numbers. Now, for instance, I harvest 8 tons of corn in a bad year, while my neighbor only manages to harvest 2 tons in the field across the road. After the first few times we got results like that, I realized I was moving in the right direction.

— How did the joint experiments with OneSoil, Frendt, and Flora get started?

Vitaly: Andrey reached out to us with a request to install section control systems on a Boguslav sprayer and for help implementing precision farming technologies in general. At that time, he had a lot of machinery and equipment on his farm that needed to be configured and integrated into a single system: autopilot for the tractors and combine, application control systems, and a yield mapping system. We had just started working with OneSoil, so implementing precision farming at Flora A. A. Farm became a joint endeavor. Along with Usevalad Henin, we began testing variable-rate seeding and fertilization on the farm's fields, and we just wrapped up our third seeding season.
Ricardo in the field_OneSoil Blog
Andrey Kapritsa and Vitaly Shuberansky
Usevalad: My role in these experiments is to formulate hypotheses, create prescription maps for seeding and fertilizer application, and analyze the results. I make all the maps based on NDVI, relief, and soil brightness data. By the way, any farmer can create a seeding or fertilizer application map on their own in the OneSoil web app. It's free for fields of any area. In the app, the map is built based only on several years of NDVI index data for the growth phases when the NDVI index most accurately reflects yield.
OneSoil Scouting mobile app_OneSoil Blog
Productivity zones map in the OneSoil web app.
— What experiments did you conduct in the first year?

Vitaly: We first mapped all of the farm's fields and conducted a soil nutrient analysis. Andrey already had maps featuring several years of yield from his combine. We studied them and simultaneously identified productivity zones in the OneSoil web app. We then suggested to Andrey that he start with variable-rate seeding for sunflowers. In 2020, we repeated the sunflower experiment and expanded the experiments to corn, wheat, and barley.

In addition, we increased the variable-rate seeding area by 30% every year. This year, more than half of the fields have already been allocated for variable-rate seeding. If the result is as good as it was in the first year, the farm will completely switch to variable-rate seeding. We're still continuing our research for fertilizer application for winter crops.
Usevalad: I'll talk a little about the process itself. We always test two hypotheses in each experiment: we both increase and decrease rates in the same productivity zones. We also try to leave one control strip with the same rate in all zones. We do that to reduce the seeding rate if we don't achieve a yield increase. We also always start conducting experiments with small areas and gradually increase them. This lowers the risk. Lastly, we test the technology over several years, because many factors can affect experiment results in agriculture, such as temperature, precipitation, humidity, and so on. If there's a drought, you get one result. If there's excessive heat, you get another. So, to minimize the impact external factors have, we repeat the experiments for three years, on average.
Ricardo in the field_OneSoil Blog
Cornfields at Flora A. A. Farm
— What do the experiments show?

Andrey: I really like our variable-rate seeding experiments with sunflowers. They've reliably shown that the seeding rate doesn't affect yield at all for the high-yield hybrids I use. For two years in a row, we seeded sunflower at rates of around 40,000 to 75,000 per hectare (16,000 to 30,000 seeds per acre). We got the same yield everywhere as when sowing 75,000 seeds per hectare (30,000 seeds per acre). That's why I reduced the sunflower seeding rate to 55,000 per hectare (a little more than 22,000 seeds per acre) this year. Usevalad suggested dropping the rate to 50,000 seeds per hectare (~20,000 per acre), but I'm not mentally prepared to use such a low seeding rate yet.
Ricardo in the field_OneSoil Blog
Sunflower yield map with seeding rates in each zone. The experiment was conducted in 2020.
On the other hand, in the fields with corn, we identified a clear dependence on the seeding rate. If the zone is a high productivity area, 75,000–80,000 seeds per hectare (~30,000 to 32,500 seeds per acre) will yield better results than the medium rate or the low rate of 70,000 seeds per hectare (~28,000 per acre).

Usevalad: The winter wheat variable-rate seeding experiments are still in the study phase. This year, we applied variable rates for the first and second nitrogen top dressing applications and introduced variable-rate phosphorus and potassium applications when seeding. These were the first experiments we did with fertilizer application in Flora A. A. Farm's fields. It will take at least another year to determine the dependence of yield on the rate.
Vitaly: If we evaluate the experiments in terms of profitability, we can say that the farm made more money due to two factors: saving seeds and redistributing rates in the field. After the experiments, we reduced the seeding rate for sunflowers by 20% and for corn by 10%, while corn yield increased by an average of 3%. If a sack of sunflower seeds costs $150 per three hectares ($20.25 per acre), we save $10 per hectare ($4.07 per acre). For corn, that's a savings of $20 per hectare ($8.14 per acre).
Ricardo in the field_OneSoil Blog
Corn variable-rate seeding experiment results from one of the farm's fields.
The change for the first two years was stable. Even last year, when we had a drought, Flora A.A.'s yield was 7 metric tons per hectare (112 bushels per acre) but only 3 tons per hectare (48 bushels per acre) at the neighboring farm.

— What are your plans for the experiments this year?

Andrey: As Usevalad mentioned, we've already set up experiments for variable-rate nitrogen application to a winter wheat crop. We applied nitrogen twice at different rates. We also sowed sugar beets at variable rates. I don't know if anyone's done this before, but we decided to give it a try, even if we're not quite sure how we'll monitor yield afterward. It seems we'll have to do it manually by digging up the beets, weighing them, and seeing whether there's a dependence on the seeding rate.

In addition to the usual seeding and fertilizer experiments, we decided to apply soil-applied herbicides by zones in a cornfield this year. The zones were identified based on soil brightness readings. As Usevalad says, there's more humus where the soil is darker. We looked at the humus content to decide whether to add 1.5, 2, 2.5, or 3 liters of acetochlor. We chose the field where the difference in organic nutrient content is clearly visible. We'll wait to see the results in the autumn.

— It seems you're satisfied with the experiments, judging by your plans. Are you using the OneSoil app in your work?

Andrey: I mostly use the OneSoil mobile app to view the NDVI index. I really like how the app is arranged. It's convenient to use, and the NDVI colors are a nice touch. I look at the NDVI to spot problem areas. If there's a really big difference in the field's NDVI indices, for example, I head out to inspect the areas where the index differs from the average.

Last year, we got hit by an unexpected freeze. After that, the NDVI index fell in certain areas. The frost noticeably damaged plants in low-lying areas. We walked around those areas and saw that the index really did coincide with what was actually happening in the field. We couldn't resolve the issue, of course, because you can't turn back time, but we were convinced that you can trust the NDVI index when looking for problem areas.
Vitaly: At our company, we tend to use the OneSoil web app more often. We build productivity zones in fields using several years of NDVI data. You can do that for any field for free in the 'Sowing Rate' tab.

Interview conducted by Tanya Kovalchuk
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Tanya Kovalchuk
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