Precision Farming with New Holland

Farmers Weekly, 12 March 2004.

Precision agriculture involves the identification of areas or management zones within different yield potentials. These variations can be managed by means of satellite technology, which contributes towards expanding and achieving a sustainable and successful agricultural sector.
Precision agriculture has increased significantly over the past three years. In a study by Ntsikane Matela (now Maine) from the Centre for Agricultural Management at the UFS on The status of precision agriculture in South Africa, it was found that only 21 farmers were involved in precision agriculture in 2000.
However, further research by Mr Vorster Zeilinga on The identification of management zones in the Free State, indicated that approximately 50 farmers in the Free State alone, were involved in precision agriculture during 2003.

Radical yield variations

According to Dr Wim Nell, director of the Centre fo Agricultural Management at the UFS, farmers who have applied the principles of precision agriculture are amazed when they realise the variation of yields within a field with standard or blanket application of seed and fertiliser. Yield variations of between 1,5 and 1,2 tons per hectare in dry land maize were recorded by yield monitors on one field in the Bothaville district in the Free State. Here inputs were spread evenly for a yield of four tons per hectare. During December 2003 a farmer in the grain-growing area of Heidelberg in the Western Cape, where no-till cultivation is practised, recorded dryland wheat yield variations of between 1,8 and 7,1 tons per hectare, with an even application of inputs.

New Holland leads the way

With precision agriculture, yield variations can even be more prominent if the high potential areas can be managed for optimum yields. With this technology, natural resources can be utilised more efficiently, farm management can be improved – the technology increases the management capacity of the farmer – inputs can be applied more economically and farm profit can be increased.
New Holland SA (NHSA) has probably done the most for the country’s farming community in terms of researching the economics of precision agriculture. NHSA sponsors the precision farming research projects at the Centre for Agricultural Management at the UFS