A consortium of UK businesses led by GrowHow UK has been awarded funding to support the development of an automated system for the precision application of nitrogen fertilizer and plant growth regulators (PGRs).
Half of the £1 million plus required to develop the new precision farming technology is being funded by InnovateUK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board).
The other partners in the project are ADAS, Precise Crop Nutrition, Patchwork, Syngenta, Chris Harry-Thomas Consultancy and Hill Court Farm Research.
Part of the research will involve further developing and testing the ISARIA precision input system which has been developed by the German firm Fritzmeier Umwelttechnik.
The ISARIA system is an intelligent tractor-mounted crop sensor for the variable application of nitrogen fertilizer, with potential to be used on other crop inputs such as plant growth regulators.
The technology has been proven under German climatic conditions but extensive field-scale trials and small plot experiments are required to create software appropriate to UK agriculture.
Over three years, the project will work on developing automated systems to measure N fertilizer requirements for cereals and OSR and the PGR requirements in OSR.
Specific algorithms and software will be created to integrate historic yield and soil map information, soil mineral nitrogen and additionally available nitrogen measurements with ISARIA real-time data to provide the most accurate predictions of N fertilizer and PGR requirement.
GrowHow agronomist Allison Grundy says: “The consortium is thrilled to have won the opportunity to develop this new precision farming technology for UK farmers.
“I am confident the technology has the potential to improve nutrient use efficiency and, therefore, yield and quality for growers.”
According to ADAS crop physiologists Sarah Kendall and Pete Berry, the project will provide an opportunity to better understand how to predict nitrogen fertilizer and PGR requirements, so these crop inputs can be targeted more accurately on both a field-by-field and metre-by-metre basis.