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"Variable-Rate Application of Manure Helped Us Increase Wheat Yield from 5 T/Ha to 7 T/Ha"

Reading time — 4 min
A farmer from the Czech Republic talks about his experiments with the variable-rate application of fertilizers, growth regulators, and even manure with the help of OneSoil.
The hilly nature of his family farm pushed Jiří Neužil, a farmer from South Moravia, to use variable-rate application. He started by using the OneSoil web app to determine how to apply growth regulators, then fertilizers. Eventually, he even coupled that with soil brightness maps to apply manure. Jiří told us how precision farming helped him significantly increase yields despite the difficult terrain.
The hilly nature of his family farm pushed Jiří Neužil, a farmer from South Moravia, to use variable-rate application. He started by using the OneSoil web app to determine how to apply growth regulators, then fertilizers. Eventually, he even coupled that with soil brightness maps to apply manure. Jiří told us how precision farming helped him significantly increase yields despite the difficult terrain.
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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.
— Jiří, tell us a bit about your farm, please.

— The farm is located in South Moravia, 50 km from Brno, the second-largest city in the Czech Republic. The current size of the farm is 2,000 ha, and I manage another 2,000 ha. We grow soybeans, wheat, barley, rapeseed, sugar beet, mustard, clover, corn, potatoes, and other crops.

This is my parent's company; it was founded in 1994. There are about 20 people, including team members from surrounding villages.

For some years, I worked in IT companies. But even during that period, I did some work for my parents. I developed several agricultural apps: for example, a simple accounting system and some systems for fertilizer application. So, I was deeply in touch with the company even when I wasn't there day in, day out.

I stopped working for IT companies several years ago, and after that, I reunited with my family.

— How did you find out about OneSoil?

— We decided to try variable-rate application (VRA) of fertilizers, and we bought a variable-rate sprayer in February 2020. We began to look for ways to get proper VRA maps. In the Czech Republic, some companies offer to create variable-rate maps, but the prices are very high. For instance, one company said that creating maps for us would cost 2 million korunas (just over €80K). But we don't know if this method would work for us, so paying such an amount of money sounds insane.
A user proposes to develop a new functionality for OneSoil app_OneSoil Blog
The OneSoil Web App calculates productivity zones based on 3 years of satellite data.
For any field and for free.
— Which OneSoil products do you use?

— We use both the OneSoil mobile and web apps. Many people in our company have the OneSoil mobile app installed and use it for crop scouting and share notes and pictures during that process. It's also useful for new team members who don't know where a new field is or what crop grows there. Using the OneSoil app, we've also made large pictures of our fields in 2×3 m format. We use the map of the whole area to show the machinery's routes during field operations. I also use the web app to create variable-rate application maps.

— Have you tried any of OneSoil's devices?

— Yes, we use OneSoil's weather sensors and modem. Some of our machinery's terminals don't have remote access, so we had to upload the data to a USB, drive 20 minutes out in the fields, and insert the USB into the display. It's very time-consuming. OneSoil's modem is a good solution. I started using the device last year, and currently, I have two modems for both of our quadtrac tractors.

— How do you use VRA maps?

— In the early spring, we use the OneSoil app to determine where in the field the winter crops are in bad shape, and then we reseed those areas. We also use VRA for fertilizers and growth regulators.
— How exactly do you use VRA maps for fertilizers?

— Our farm is in a hilly area. After it rains, the water with the nutrients flows down from the hills to the flat areas, and they experience overnutrition. And in high-productivity zones, we have the issue of crops lodging. These zones can produce 14 tons of wheat per hectare, but because of the crops lodging, the yield decreases to 7 t/ha. And it was even worse for mustard. This crop lodges very quickly. In 2019, we had 4,000 ha of mustard. Of that, 3,000 ha lodged. It was nearly a disaster.
Map 1. Productivity zones. Map 2. Relief. Map 3. Soil brightness
These maps show an example of a zone with excess moisture. It is characterized by low productivity (red area on Map 1), low-lying land (blue areas on Map 2), and high organic content in the soil (dark areas on Map 3).
We decided to decrease the amount of fertilizer in high-productivity zones. As a result, they now produce 11 tons of wheat per hectare. So, we can either apply more fertilizer in high-productivity zones and get 7 tons of lodged wheat or apply less fertilizer and get 11 t/ha.

As for low-productivity zones, we used to have 4–5 tons of wheat. We applied the fertilizer we saved from high-productivity zones, and the yield increased to 6 t/ha.

So, we used to get yields of 7 t/ha in high-productivity zones and 4–5 t/ha in low-productivity zones. Now we get 11 t/ha and 6 t/ha, respectively. On average, the yield in these zones increased by 5 t/ha or 48%.
— How do you work with VRA maps for growth regulators?

— For growth regulators, we do the opposite. We apply more growth regulators in high-productivity zones and don't apply them in low-productivity zones. It works perfectly.

— How do you use soil brightness maps to apply manure?
A user proposes to develop a new functionality for OneSoil app_OneSoil Blog
Soil brightness reflects the amount of organic matter: dark soil is more fertile than light soil. Within one field, soil brightness can differ a lot. Soil samples can be collected by zones or by points.
— First, we applied manure to the whole field, but then saw that in some areas, it had zero effect.

Now, our process is to add organic matter from cow manure only to areas where there isn't enough. To identify these areas, we use soil brightness maps provided to us by the OneSoil team. We combine those soil brightness maps with yield maps derived from our harvester.

The overall results are great. Before applying the manure to areas that lack organic matter, our average wheat yield was around 5 t/ha. After performing variable-rate application of manure, we now have 7t/ha.

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