Agronomy Advice
March 22, 2024

Embrace Digital Tools to Improve Precision

By: Natalie Wood

No matter what industry you’re in, technology can be a game-changer. Our ancestors would be amazed at the tools we can use today to improve farming outcomes.

Yara Area Manager and Agronomist in a field using a N-Tester BT
Yara Area Manager and Agronomist in a field using a N-Tester BT

We have talked about the importance of precision farming for years. I truly believe that it’s the only way farmers can balance the pressures placed on them to protect the environment and feed a growing population whilst maintaining a decent profit.

Having hopefully spread your first application of fertiliser, you’ll now be turning your attention to your second and, finally, third dressings on cereals. So how can you deliver, as precisely as possible, only as much nitrogen as your crops need to thrive? This is where tools like Yara’s Atfarm, with its biomass monitoring, variable nitrogen rate application (VRA) maps and N-Tester BT functionality, can really make a big difference to you.

Improving Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE)

The N-Tester BT in Atfarm does a great job of identifying how much nitrogen is in your crop. By looking at the light passing through the leaf it obtains a chlorophyll reading which directly correlates to the amount of nitrogen that exists in the leaf, allowing you to see how much is in the crop and what its future requirements are.

First-time users of the N-Tester BT device with Atfarm are often surprised that the recommendation leads to a reduction in how much nitrogen they had planned to put on the crops. But by trusting those readings you will be increasing your NUE,  getting more use out of each kilogram of nitrogen you apply.

Responsive Field Monitoring

Atfarm also has crop satellite monitoring functionality allowing you to check the biomass status of your fields. Throughout the growing season you will be able to make informed decisions based on your biomass maps: identify areas of high growth potential as well as problem areas that need more attention, see where weather has affected crop growth, monitor progress and forward-plan.

Although you can choose between three types of biomass maps (Normalised Difference Vegetation Index NDVI, optimised or n-uptake), we would recommend the optimised map. This is based on Yara’s N-Sensor Index and it’s what sets Atfarm biomass maps out as unique. Using the crop and region specific calibrations of the Yara N-Sensor Index, Atfarm generates optimised biomass maps to show variability in crop development, even at advanced growth stages, something the NDVI can’t do. 

From here, you can then create VRA maps to look at the variability across your fields. By creating a VRA map in Atfarm you can even out crop growth and see potential yield increases of up to 4%.

Yara has developed Atfarm in response to the global pressure on accelerating the transition to greener food production. You can find out more and sign up here.

Atfarm is very simple to use, taking just 10 mins to load all my field boundaries over the 2200 hectares of farming. I like to use satellite imagery to scout for any management issues. The maps are a very visual way of picking out differences in growth and development to help prioritise decisions.” - Jorin Grimsdale - Mountfair Farming, Duns, Berwickshire