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Rural Diary July
1 July 2019 Jay Howes

The benefits of digital farming

Agriculture has known a constant evolution, from the early domestication of plants and animals to the use of crop rotation, cultivation and fertiliser and the green revolution of the 1960s. Agriculture has now entered a new phase, the ‘digital age’. 

Digital technologies including the internet, mobile technologies, data analytics, artificial intelligence and other digitally-delivered services are changing agricultural practice and the food chain. Many farmers are already using GPS guided tractors to plant crops, and embracing technologies such as sensors connected to their mobile phones that deliver real time information to assist in the decision making process. 

Agribusinesses are also looking at the benefits of digital innovation to improve their services, and PGG Wrightson is no exception. PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representatives (TFRs) use the latest decision support tool called Greenlight Grower Management (GLGM) supplied by UK based software company Muddy Boots. 

GLGM is a cloud-based decision support software that enables TFRs to collect and store client specific farm data. Using this data they are able to create agricultural chemical and fertiliser plans, review past applications and activities, share crop and paddock history and view soil test data to ensure crops have the best chance to grow to their full potential. The GLGM software is unique in the fact that it is the only software of this kind that can support the user to reach the right decision using soil and crop data that is specific to New Zealand conditions. 

Using fertiliser recommendations as an example, TFRs can go into a paddock pre-crop and take a soil sample. This is then sent away to Hill Laboratories to be analysed. This soil analysis is then automatically loaded into a client specific GLGM site that the TFR has populated. The site holds information such as the crop to be grown, the expected yield and soil type the farm is located on. 
Using the soil test data, GLGM calculates maintenance and capital fertiliser requirements for the paddock taking into account specific crop nutrient removals and soil type. This then assists the TFR to choose the correct fertiliser product to provide the optimum amount of each nutrient needed and maximise crop yield while maintaining and/or improving soil nutrient status. The software creates a professional fertiliser report the TFR can present to clients and contractors ensuring everyone is informed of what is being applied to their land. 

One of the key benefits of GLGM is that it provides the TFR with a tool for customers to use for data management. The software keeps a record of all sprays and fertiliser used on a paddock. This can then help inform important decisions like crop rotation and future fertiliser applications, with the benefit of detailed reflections on previous seasons. This means the customer has the ability to review decisions from last season to plan for the season ahead. Furthermore, this historical information also can assist farmers with traceability/accountability, with regards to buyers and regional council requirements. 

Don’t miss out on the second article of this series discussing in more detail the benefits for farmers in next month’s Rural Diary.

To see how GLGM is being used to help create accurate fertiliser and agchem recommendations for your farm, contact your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative for a demonstration. 


Jay Howes

Related Articles

Growing a long-lasting lucerne crop

01 June 2019

The key to growing a high yielding, long-lasting lucerne crop that provides high quality feed is dependent on good weed control and plant nutrition.

A successful crop of lucerne can last many years as long as it is well managed and good weed control is achieved. This can be done with a combination of spraying, mowing and grazing.

In mature crops of lucerne, weed control should be done during winter when the crop is dormant to reduce damage. Walk the paddocks during late autumn and identify weeds and their numbers. During mid-winter, use a mixture of a contact burn-down spray (containing paraquat) and another residual herbicide (usually containing atrazine) to brown-down the weeds and leave a residual herbicide layer on the soil surface to kill any newly emerging weeds. Remember, this can only be done on established crops that are over 12 months old as the spray can damage younger plants with smaller root systems.

Monitoring the crop for weeds during the spring and autumn is also important on established crops as other more selective herbicides can be used on specific weeds throughout the year. Don’t forget the use of the mower. Removing annual weeds before they set seed is a good form of weed control during the season.

Keeping your lucerne crop healthy and productive helps it compete with weeds as well. Over time paddock fertility drops and pH levels decrease. It is important that nutrients, especially potassium (K), are replaced if you are grazing or cutting and removing the crop. Ensure regular liming to keep pH levels above 6.0. 

In most situations, the end of a lucerne crop’s life is when the battle is lost against weeds that limit production and palatability. It is then time to spray out and put in a new crop.

For more information on weed control in lucerne, contact your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative. 

Greenlight Grower Management: A farmer's perspective

01 August 2019

Last month Jay Howes introduced Greenlight Grower Management (GLGM), and highlighted how PGG Wrightson is using this decision support software tool to improve agronomic recommendations from Technical Field Representatives (TFRs). This month, I am going to introduce the concept of accessing GLGM yourself and explain what benefits there are to owning your own farmer subscription.

When I think of farmers and growers accessing GLGM in partnership with PGG Wrightson, I see two major benefits: 

  • Traceability and compliance

     Whether it is your fertiliser records for a nutrient budget or agri-chemical application records for compliance, the requirement for farmers to supply on-farm information is increasing. To put it simply, having a paper record is simply not good enough anymore. It is too easy to lose and ultimately someone has to spend some time entering that information into a digital format.

    GLGM takes the hassle out of this process. It stores all of your agronomic recommendations and application information, and the data can be exported with ease. Imagine not having to rummage around your office trying to find a printout from your fertiliser supplier to help build your nutrient budget; imagine extracting all the data you need with the click of a button, anytime you want it, anytime you need it. 
  • Openness and accountability

    The relationship between farmer, TFR and contractor is special. There is a high degree of trust between the three groups and for the process to work efficiently and precisely, the flow of information must be seamless and quick. GLGM enhances this process.

    The TFR can enter information from the paddock directly into GLGM which can be viewed by the farmer in real time. This can then progress into a product order and the necessary information relayed to the contractor, all with the click of a virtual button. The contractor can apply the product and notify the farmer and the TFR within the system, keeping everyone in the loop. Nothing is lost to chance and everyone knows where everyone is at.

GLGM is an ever evolving platform, new functions and features are continually being developed and released into the system. One interesting new development coming in the next couple of months is the ability for farmers to manage their own internal agri-chemical stock levels. Farmers will be able to store in the system all their current stocks that are in their chemical sheds. TFRs and contractors can see these stock levels in real time and draw on them for supply when making a recommendation, effectively reducing the chance of an order being raised for product that you already have on-farm.

Using GLGM to help drive agronomic decisions offers an unprecedented level of open and efficient communication between advisors, contractors and farmers. With subscriptions starting at $450 per year (NZD), there really isn’t any excuse not to be embracing the digital age and coming on board in partnership with PGG Wrightson. 

If you would like to know more about GLGM, contact your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative and a demonstration of the software can be arranged.

Pest control goes digital

01 August 2019

Rats can cause significant damage on farms, lifestyle blocks, and orchards, gnawing on wiring and getting into animal feed, so controlling them matters. 

Goodnature is launching their latest trapping innovation, Chirp, a digitally enabled trap that can be retrofitted to any existing Goodnature A24 Rat and Stoat Trap. Once installed, and after downloading the Goodnature App, trappers will get smartphone notifications via Bluetooth™ every time the trap kills a pest, as well as when it is time for a new gas canister or lure.

The A24 Rat and Stoat Trap has been popular in the rural sector for over a decade, known as a reliable tool to keep rat populations controlled. The A24 is a carbon dioxide powered, humane rat and stoat trap, which has a range of valuable features:

  • Automatic resetting saves time 
    The A24 automatically resets up to 24 times, killing rats and stoats one after the other, and reducing the need to check traps from monthly down to just twice a year. The latest Chirp functionality gives A24 customers even greater oversight of their trapping operation in real time on their phone. Efficiently and humanely disposing of 24 rats per trap without having to manually reset is a valuable time and money saver.
  • The A24 traps are non-toxic
    The lure used in A24s is non-toxic, so there is no threat to livestock or pets, and can be set in cow sheds. Working dogs and pets won’t be exposed to poisoned pest carcasses, as the risk of secondary poisoning, is eliminated. 
  • Keep connected and know when the Chirp-enabled trap has been activated.  
    Chirp has been designed to keep trapping on track. Chirp connects the A24 to smartphones via the Goodnature App. Being automatically notified when traps have been triggered helps trappers know how many pests have been killed. With scavenging of dead pests common, Chirp makes the unknown, known.
  • Be notified when the trap’s lure and gas canister need replacing.
    Knowing when traps are low on lure and gas is key to keeping trap networks operational at all times. Given the minimal servicing needs of an A24 trap, it is easy to lose track of when a trap needs new gas and lure. Chirp does the tracking automatically and helpfully sends reminders when it is time to re-gas, and re-lure Chirp-enabled traps. 

Chirp is being launched in PGG Wrightson stores across New Zealand in August. There will be both Chirp retrofit kits and fully enabled Chirp A24 kits as well. Visit your local PGG Wrightson store today to find out more.

Supplied by Goodnature

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