What data farmer need_OneSoil blog_cover

What kind of data do farmers need — hints and tips to get you started

For farming to be effective, a farmer needs to collect and analyze field data at every working stage. So, where should you start and what do you need to do first? Check out our article for hints and tips.

Soil

To determine heterogeneous soil areas, farmers conduct an agrochemical analysis of soil. Usually, this is done every four years. Soil samples are taken either manually or using special equipment, and are then sent to a laboratory for analysis. Based on the results, farmers make digital maps of field properties. They are used to set tasks for agricultural equipment for the application of seeds and fertilizers.

The soil is examined for more than 30 parameters, with the main ones being acidity, the content of phosphorus, potassium, and humus. Acidity (pH) is the easiest one to measure. Its value can be determined either by laboratory testing or by measuring the soil with a field sensor. Additionally, acidity is an important factor of yield. For each crop, there is the pH value that helps it to grow best.

From the level of humus content, farmers estimate the fertility of different parts of the field and calculate doses of seeds and fertilizers. Phosphorus and potassium are necessary for the growth and development of plants so it is important to know the level of their content for calculating the exact rate of fertilizers.

Yield

Data about the yield is one of the most valuable in precise farming. Onboard computers in agricultural equipment collect geo-referenced data on the harvested crop. Using this information, farmers create digital maps that help identify problem areas on the field. The cause of low fertility can be determined by comparing the yield map with a relief map, nutrient distribution or other field indicators.
For example, the farmer has been collecting yield data from his field for two years. He found areas where productivity was the lowest and measured the soil acidity there. It turned out that its level was very low in these particular areas. To bring the acidity up to the optimal level and increase the yield, the farmer applied chalk.
The more yield data there is, the better. Information collected over several years allows farmers to be precise when setting the task of differentiated application of fertilisers and seeds for the upcoming season. Also, data collected over 5 years reduces costs several times more than data which has only been collected over a year.
Yield map_OneSoil blog
Yield map

Data from equipment

If the fieldwork is conducted poorly, farmers incur high costs. If a tractor has made an inaccurate strip when sowing seeds, an overlap is formed on the field. The application of fertilizers and pesticides will pass along the same strip, and so a double amount of expensive chemicals will be spent on these overlaps
For example, let’s take a tractor without an onboard computer that sows rapeseed on a 6 metre wide strip on a field with a total area of 100 hectares. With its every turn, an overlap of about 25 centimeters is formed. This increases the farmer’s costs for seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides by 5%, or $ 1,500.
With onboard computers and GPS-navigators, this problem is easily solved. A farmer can either avoid overlaps and gaps with accurate navigation or quickly correct them after analyzing the data from the equipment. Also, such data helps to assess the application rates of fertilizers and pesticides, to measure the speed of machinery moving across the field and to monitor the work of machine operators.

Plants

Crop performance is estimated by multispectral satellite images. One of the most popular methods is the measurement of the vegetative index NDVI. The field is divided into sections with different indexes, which allows you to see plant performance even in remote areas. On the basis of the vegetation indexes, digital maps for the differentiated application of fertilizers and pesticides are created.

Usually, analyzing a field with satellite images is a paid service. We have created the scouting app that allows the monitoring of crop performance for free.
Vegetation in scouting app_OneSoil blog
Display of vegetation index in OneSoil Scouting app

Weather

Weather stations and sensors allow you to monitor the weather remotely. This is particularly important for farms that grow vegetables and fruits. Sensors help to prepare for a critical change in temperature and to calculate the irrigation. Also, weather data helps to predict plant diseases and the emergence of pests. This allows farmers to determine the best time to apply pesticides or whether to apply them at all.
For instance, a farmer applies pesticides to a potato field twice a year. He spends $ 20,000 per season. He doesn’t know whether pests will appear or not but he uses chemicals just in case. With the help of field sensors, the farmer can avoid this overspend.
Although weather stations are a convenient tool for field monitoring, farmers are often confused with the high price of such devices — from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. At OneSoil, we have developed an affordable weather sensor that monitors soil moisture and temperature, air humidity and temperature, and also determines the level of illumination for a field area.

Relief

The relief affects the distribution of water and nutrients in the soil, which determines land fertility. Harvest and relief are closely related to each other: high yields are more frequent in lowlands, and medium and low yields are more typical in upland areas.

In the majority of European countries and in the United States, a farmer can obtain data on field relief in national mapping agencies. Another option is to order a relief map from a private company. To build a relief model, experts film the land from a drone, conduct a lidar survey or go around the field on an ATV with special equipment.

Using this information, digital maps for the differentiated application of seeds and fertilizers are created.
Yield and relief map_OneSoil blog
Relief and yield map
Where to begin?
It depends on the size and type of the farm, as well as the farmer’s experience. If you are new to precision agriculture, consider the following steps.
1
Install our free app for scouting. Monitor crop performance and mark problem areas.
2
Buy an onboard computer to monitor fieldwork and to apply seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides effectively. The cost will pay off during the season.
3
Calculate variable fertilizer rates using our free app for nitrogen. This will save you money by varying the dose for different parts of the field.
4
Find out if you have sensors for yield crop monitoring in your equipment. Activate them or if you don't have sensors, purchase them.
5
After harvesting, analyze digital maps and mark areas with low productivity.
6
To find and eliminate the cause of a low yield, measure the acidity of the soil.
7
If you still have no answer — buy or order a relief map of your field. Analyze it. From our experience, in 95% of cases, the reason for a low yield is the pH level or the relief.
8
If not, conduct an agrochemical analysis of the soil for phosphorus, potassium, humus and other elements. This is the most expensive method. In addition, the effectiveness depends on the accuracy of sampling, so we recommend using it as a last resort.
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