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Variable-rate approach to fodder crops

Variable-rate approach to fodder crops

During crop establishment and the growing season soil variability is a key driver to crop performance. This is true for both arable and fodder crops.

Lighter soils have lower water-holding capacities, and they warm up faster in the spring, which promotes earlier plant growth. Heavier soils with higher water-holding capacity take a bit longer to ‘get out of bed’ in the spring because of their lower soil temperatures.

If you can map soil variability, it gives the ability to do variable-rate seeding. On some soil types and with some crops, this can be a great way to set the crop up in a timely fashion to maximise performance throughout the season.

Typically, lower seeding rates are used in areas with lighter soils and higher rates in areas with heavier soils.

Sometimes the rates might only vary by +/- 10 percent of the originally intended seeding rate. However, it still gives the crop a greater ability to grow well with less competition for water and nutrients, particularly in lighter soil areas.

To achieve variable rate seedling and the variable rate application of subsequent inputs, you need a solid base of information in order to make the right decisions. And, of course, you need the right technology to achieve it.

Depending on the nature of the farm and the crops it supports, the information that underpins variable rate farming can range from electro-magnetic (EM) soil surveying, to grid or zonal soil sampling, to drone or satellite imagery.

EM surveying is used to map soil variability and thus, productivity potential. EM mapping has to be done when soils are at field capacity, so it is typically done over autumn, winter and spring.

The cost of EM surveying starts at $70/ha. While it is an expense, an EM survey provides information that you can use for many years. It underpins lots of future variable rate decisions, so it is a sound investment.

Soil sampling can provide another layer of information that can be used for precision nutrient management and other variable rate applications.

Precision nutrient management gives growers the ability to apply nutrients only where they are needed to optimise crop production, so it is a great way to save money and ensure that you are farming in an environmentally sustainable way. This nutrient information is used for variable rate base fertiliser and additional fertiliser applications during the growing season.

Depending on the soil sampling strategy (grid vs zonal sampling), costs can vary from $60/ha to just $200 for an entire paddock.

Drone or satellite imagery is best used for variable rate applications during the season. It allows you to vary applications depending on how the crop is performing in real-time so that you can deal with any issues before it is too late.

Satellite imagery is fairly cheap and is done without a field visit. This speeds up the turn-around time and reduces the cost for the grower.

Both options have their merits, and it depends on the issue you are addressing as to which will best give the desired outcome. Costs for drone imagery start from $4/ha and satellite from $400 per farm per year. GST exclusive.

At crop establishment, along with getting the right seeding rate for different areas, it is also important to consider the need for different nutrient levels across the paddock rather than take a blanket approach with a single rate.

Soil variability or crop history can mean that previous harvests have removed different amounts of nutrients from different areas of the paddock. This should be addressed to achieve maximise crop growth.

Variable-rate base fertiliser is a good way to start. This is linked to productivity potential, and once again, this can be determined by soil zones or grid soil sampling.

Once you have taken the initial steps needed to maximise the crop’s performance, the next step is to be proactive with crop management throughout the season. You can do this by using variable rate inputs of nitrogen, herbicides and insecticides.

Up-to-date crop imagery from a drone, satellite or crop sensors allows growers to make accurate management decisions, which could include variable rate applications to look after the crop.

We all know that seasonal weather changes can affect our crops during the season and to maximise the crop and minimise the cost of inputs we need to be able to apply only what is needed, where it is needed and when it is needed.

Variable-rate fungicide is great, particularly later in the growing season. Based on previous crop growth and weather events as well as weather forecasts fungicide can be applied at higher rates to areas with denser crop growth.

They are typically more at risk to disease pressure than areas of the crop that are less dense. Savings here can be quite considerable, based on the chemical being applied.

Critical to the success of using variable rate applications is the technology that can achieve it and technical support to pull it all together.

In addition to soil mapping and crop monitoring, this includes guidance and control systems that can recognise where different zones in a paddock are and seed drills, spreaders and sprayers that can work at variable rates.

Vantage NZ offers a robust range of Trimble guidance and control products that support variable-rate farming. They include the GFX-750 display system and Field-IQ crop input control system, and much more.

The Vantage NZ team also has the knowledge and experience to pull this technology together for you. They have a long history not only supplying and supporting these products in the New Zealand market but also using them on the farm.

For more information on variable rate crop management call Vantage NZ on 0800 482 682 or email info@vantage-nz.com.

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    Craige always wanted to farm since lambing his first ewe as a four-year-old. Along with wife Roz, Craige farms Greenvale Pastures, an arable cropping property near Methven, NZ. Craige & Roz are also partners in Three Springs Dairies Ltd, a neighbouring dairy farm. Both farms are highly immersed in the use of Precision Agriculture technology and services.

    Farming since 1984, Craige has developed a keen interest in sustainable farming practices and innovative solutions for New Zealand agriculture.

    Craige is involved in research programmes with various organisations. He has been on various governmental advisory groups such as the Technical Advisory Group on Water and Precision Agriculture and currently sits on the Technical Research Group (Agriculture) for the Climate Change Commission. Craige has been member of Foundation for Agriculture (FAR) Strategic Advisory Group, Chair of Precision Agriculture Association of NZ (PAANZ). Craige is a New Zealand Nuffield Scholar. He sits on the Board of the New Zealand Rural Leadership Trust (NZRLT) and Nuffield International. In 2012 and 2014 Craige attended the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa with the Global Farmer Network. He now sits on the Board of the Global Farmer Network.

    Craige has been the recipient of various awards such as the 2013 Ballance Farm Environmental Awards – Gordon Stephenson Trophy National Winner, 2016 International Precision Agriculture Farmer of the Year and been recognized by Environment Canterbury (ECan) for his outstanding contribution to sustainable farming systems.

    Craige loves travel, NZ’s Sauvignon Blanc and American Muscle cars and isn’t great at sitting still.

    Phil
    Neill

    Business Manager

    Over the last 10 years, prior to joining Vantage NZ in 2020, Phil managed the soil moisture monitoring business for HydroServices and Aqualinc.

    He graduated from Lincoln College a few years ago, completed a Masters in Business Administration from Southern Cross University in Australia a wee while ago, and the intermediate sustainable nutrient management course not so long ago!

    Phil see this as a very exciting time to be joining the Vantage-NZ team. He has had an association with the previous Agri Optics (now Vantage NZ) team for almost 10 years and feels privileged to be a part of its growth in the Precision Ag area.

    When Phil gets spare time he likes to read, tend to his garden and go mountain-biking, although not competitively. 

    Qualifications:
    – Masters in Business Administration

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      Daniel Magill

      Trimble Hardware Specialist (North Island)

      Daniel has been working within an Agricultural OEM environment in a technical support role since 2007. This varied role includes tractors, implements and specialist product support and technical training. Daniel’s Precision Agriculture career began in 2013 to develop and manage OEM Trimble products through sales, dealer support and training.

      From September 2019 Daniel has been supporting the North Island business for Vantage NZ allowing experience in EM Soil Mapping, software platforms alongside all of Vantage’s product offering.  This has an enabled a more hands on experience to complement his experience in Precision Ag Hardware.

      Outside of work Daniel enjoys Mountain biking, Golf and spending time with his family.

      Qualifications:

      • Bosch Master Technician Diesel Fuel Injection

      Lucy Murray

      Precision Ag Technician
      (South Island)

      Lucy graduated from Lincoln University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science with Honours. She grew up on a sheep and beef farm in near Kaikoura which kick-started her enthusiasm for agriculture. Through her degree she had experience on sheep and beef and dairy farms as well as doing a small research project. She worked as a Technical Field Rep for PGW post university. Then spent 3 months working on a sheep and beef station in NSW Australia and spent a year farming back in NZ prior to starting with Vantage NZ in 2018.

      Since joining Agri Optics NZ April 2018 Lucy has been out on farms throughout the South Island helping farmers incorporate Precision Agriculture into their farms and helping them realise the potential it has to help improve their farm systems.

      Outside of work Lucy enjoys sports such as hockey, running, biking as well as getting out on the farm and socialising with family and friends.

      Qualifications:
      – B.App.Sc (Environmental Management) (Hons)

      Laura Lowther

      Precision Ag Technician
      (North Island)

      Laura graduated from Massey University in 2018 with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science. During her degree, she gained exposure to a wide range of agricultural operations, including research projects on dairy farms and practical experience with a large scale dairy heifer and beef farm. Prior to starting with Vantage NZ in 2020, she worked as a Technical Advisor for Farmlands and expanded her agriculture knowledge to include horticulture as well.

      Based in the Pukekohe area, Laura is looking forward to helping North Island farmers with their precision agriculture needs.

      In her spare time, Laura enjoys getting outdoors, sailing coaching, travelling and kitesurfing.

      Qualifications:
      – Bachelor of Agricultural Science

      Russell van de Laak

      Trimble Hardware Specialist (North Island)

      Russell Joined the Vantage NZ team in 2020 having come over from New Zealand’s previous Trimble re-seller.

      Russell has over 20 years of experience in Agriculture as a dairy, beef, and grain farmer in addition to doing technical support and installations for  New Holland, Caterpillar and Trimble in Canada. With this, he brings an in-depth and practical understanding of mechanics, hydraulics and electronics as they pertain to machine control.

      Russell is “happily” married to a Kiwi Girl from the Waikato and has 4 children. Among many things their family enjoys biking and hiking in New Zealand’s beautiful environment and prioritize their faith in God as Christians and time with family.

      Wade Riley

      Trimble Hardware Specialist (North Island)

      Wade grew up on a cotton and rice farm in Mississippi. He has worked for John Deere, Trimble and AutoFarm giving him extensive experience with technology pertaining to precision agriculture. His knowledge of agriculture is broad, but his areas of expertise include land levelling, tile drainage and orchard development such as planting and variable rate sprays.

      With experience in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, Wade has broad knowledge of a range of crops such as sugar cane, cotton, rice, cereal crops, soybeans, vegetables and orchards.

      Wade has been in New Zealand coming up 13 years. His outside interests include adventure motorbike riding and 4×4 safaris in his trusty Jeep.

      Qualifications:
      – Bachelor of Science (Hons)

      Shane Blampied

      Trimble Hardware Specialist (South Island)

      The last 14 years have seen Shane working as a diesel technician, troubleshooting drills and Braud harvesters. GPS and electrical issues were at the forefront of his workload. 

      Shane joined Vantage NZ in March 2020 as a member of the Trimble Hardware Sales and back-up crew. He’s sure his background will assist customers in fulfilling their Trimble hardware and back-up requirements.

      In Shane’s downtime he enjoys spending time with friends and family, boxing and motorbiking; when time allows.

       

      Qualifications:

      • National Certificate in Automotive Heavy Engineering

      Jane
      Robb

      Customer Support Specialist

      After 16 years of working for Tony Davoren, HydroServices and Aqualinc Jane was joined the Vantage NZ team in December 2019.

      After finishing her viticulture training in 2003 she sought employment with HydroServices, which led to management of the HydroServices branch in Otago. A challenge she enjoyed fully but upon the arrival of their first child she took up part time employment as a technician for Tony Davoren. Through this role Jane worked with many soil moisture monitoring sensors and built up vast experience within the soil moisture management industry.

      In 2016 Jane did a post-grad in professional development focusing on key soil parameters for soils across Canterbury. She draws on this knowledge on a daily basis in my work with soil moisture management.

      To get a more complete view of the challenges facing the agriculture sectors and how soil moisture management fits within this Jane completed the Intermediate sustainable nutrient management course and is enrolled to do the advanced course in 2020.

      Jane looks forward to working with clients across all sectors to enhance their Vantage NZ experience and ultimately their own business.

      Jemma Mulvihill graduated from Lincoln University with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science with Honours in 2009. During Jemma’s stint as an undergrad she completed a year’s study abroad in the US at Colorado State University where she came across Precision Ag, amongst other things, and all it had to offer for the US market.

      Jemma saw that there could be a really good fit with some of these Precision Agriculture technologies and techniques here in NZ to enhance NZ agriculture. 

      After finishing her undergrad degree she took the plunge and founded Agri Optics NZ (now Vantage NZ) with Craige and Roz Mackenzie, to provide Precision Agriculture technology and services to fill the gap in the ever-changing technology drive ag market that was developing in NZ.

      Jemma & her husband Paddy farm a sheep and beef farm in South Canterbury. In her spare time Jemma enjoys getting out on farm, spending time with their two young girls, playing squash, spending time with family and friends and travelling. 

       

      Qualifications:
      • B AgSci (Hons)
      • Intermediate Sustainable Nutrient Management Course (Massey University)

       

      With over 20 years’ experience in farming, both in NZ and the UK Chris boasts a wide range of skills covering all aspects of agricultural management. Chris is the winner of awards in the UK for improved production yields, reduced overheads and a range of environmental schemes and enterprises. He moved to NZ in 2007 from the UK to manage a mixed 600ha cropping farm in Canterbury until late 2012.

      Chris has experience in EM Soil Mapping, a range of variable rate application technologies and has worked with on farm computer systems for over 15 years. In the UK Chris was involved from the early stages with variable rate nutrient application from grid soil sampling, canopy imagery and yield mapping.

      A great family man, Chris enjoys soccer refereeing, biking, hiking and socialising with family and friends.

       
      Qualifications:
      • HND in Agriculture, from the UK
      • BASIS qualified in crop protection, integrated pest management plus bio-diversity & environmental training
      • FACTS – certification of competence in fertiliser advice
      • Intermediate Sustainable Nutrient Management Course (Massey University)

      Adrianne Middleton

      Administration

      Adrianne emigrate to New Zealand 10 years ago with her husband and 3 children, moving to Methven from rural West Sussex in England where they had a beef and cropping farm.

      Adrianne has worked in admin/accounts for many years from being Senior Receptionist at a large equine hospital to being PA for a major events catering company and looking after the accounts for their farm and now their agricultural fencing business.


      With her daughter now at Lincoln Uni and her 2 sons at home her spare time is spent walking her dog, attending pilates and Aqua classes and reading.

      Adrianne Middleton

      Administration

      Adrianne emigrate to New Zealand 10 years ago with her husband and 3 children, moving to Methven from rural West Sussex in England where they had a beef and cropping farm.

      Adrianne has worked in admin/accounts for many years from being Senior Receptionist at a large equine hospital to being PA for a major events catering company and looking after the accounts for their farm and now their agricultural fencing business.


      With her daughter now at Lincoln Uni and her 2 sons at home her spare time is spent walking her dog, attending pilates and Aqua classes and reading.

      Mark
      Fitzgibbon

      Precision Ag Consultant - SI

      Mark joined Vantage in June 2020, having over nine years’ experience in soil moisture management with HydroServices and in more recent years with Aqualinc as the Area Manager for Mid and South Canterbury.

      Prior to that, Mark had extensive experience dairy farming in Canterbury and Southland. Mark’s areas of expertise are in site selection and installation for soil moisture measurement, monitoring for irrigation management advice and soil moisture sensor calibration, water holding capacity measurements, and ground truthing of EM maps of farms. Mark is based in Mid Canterbury and will be working with clients through the lower South Island.

      Outside of work Mark enjoys playing golf, following sports and spending time with his young family.

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