Highly profitable domestic agrarian production in Ukraine is based on modern technology, advanced technic, breeding, plant protection tools and other tools and approaches of the present. However, experts know that this is just the top of the iceberg. There is a cheap labor force, high fertility of soils and relatively symbolic land payment, which provides a lion’s share of super-profits. But the changes are coming, aren’t it? And faster than we think. Nobody will be able to work for a penny; the tax cuts (as well as the gas charge) can only be promised during pre-election period, and forcibly the land market will not be sustained for a long time. So, everyone will have to fight for every earned UAH, not for a thousand dollars.
We still have a “yield race” – at the end of each year, we keep on that pedestal soybean records, then corn, then the sunflower, awarding the record holders. However, caring farmers have changed this approach to farming – they reach the maximum “profit” through the optimization of the use of resources. This way of cutting off excess costs is named – precision agriculture, and it is based on the use of space technology, equipment upgrades, GPS utilization, various sensors of control, VRT, etc.
In the world
Do you know what begins precision agriculture from? Correctly, from the analysis of the soil. For a reason, the lion’s share of farmers in the United States do this steps annually. There is much higher the cost of production after all : only for land lease, they pay from $ 400 to $ 1,000 per 1 hectare. Therefore, in such mathematics, they are forced to use all the possibilities that give at least the least savings. Data from the International Society of Precision Agriculture (ISPA) argue that in the United States 80% of farmers use modern GPS technology for soil sampling and analysis. Almost the same in Canada – 81%. And according to experts’ forecasts their percentage will grow to 85% by 2020. Almost similar picture emerges with regard to the use of their digital instruments, various special software – in the West, it is used by about 70% of farmers.Also interesting is that in Canada (not in Argentina and Brazil!), 62% of the farmers in 2017 used a No-till soil cultivation system, 70% of respondents had the technology of ASC on sprayers, 36% on fertilizer spreaders, 26% on seeders and only 27% of the polled Canadian farmers don’t have ASC technology on any machinery. Another important direction of cost optimization (for example, in the USA) is related to the highly developed agro consulting in the country.
There are only three people need for the cultivation of 1000 hectares in American farm, but the company is serviced by external agro-consultant. Most of their tasks are delegated by American farmers to outsourcing companies. And it gives the advantage – both in quality and in quantity. After all, on the one hand, farmers have the optimal staff, on the other hand, they receive the best informational and technological support from consultants, who are constantly watching the market novelties, have more narrow-sector knowledge, experience, and practice of introducing technologies in different farms.
They do not have to open their own laboratories to conduct soil analysis, employ agrochemisters to staff, which will calculate fertilizer needs and norms, or engineers for equipment re-equipment. And they don’t need to buy UAV! Foreign farmers contact their agro-consultants on any issue with access to databases, up-to-date equipment.
In Ukraine, such statistics doesn’t exist. Rather, it was not collected and generalized by anyone. Only some companies that promote their services and tools in the market have their own segmental view of the situation. Let’s say, at the beginning of 2019, the domestic company AgriLab conducted soil analysis with automated sampling and mapping properties for over 1,000,000 hectares. The farms that have embarked on such comprehensive agro-diagnostics with AgriLab have received one more benefit – access to the Agronomist Portal – a special software that allows them to visualize, accumulate various layers of field information and plan agronomic operations taking into account all data.
The situation on the market of mineral fertilizers, where the cost of resources is rapidly and constantly growing, is pushed to the search for new solutions and, in particular, the introduction of elements of precision farming by agrarians. After all, for example, due to differentiated fertilization it is possible to optimize the use of resources up to 40%. Indicative fact: the area of orders for the forming of map-tasks for differentiated fertilization and amelioration in 2018 comparing with 2017 increased threefold! At the same time, the 5 hectare grid and the smaller sampling grid were ordered more actively. And as you know, the bigger the detailing of the grid – the clearer the picture of the real state of the field.
Is precision agriculture only for big players ?
There is still a myth in Ukraine: “Precision farming can afford only large agricultural holdings.” In fact, this is not the case at all. Every year, more farms with a land bank of 1000 hectares begin to introduce the elements of precise agriculture. Also small farms, with a size of 50 hectares is introducing precise farming.
How effective is a differentiated fertilization, we will consider on an example.
For example, there is a zone in map-task, where there is no need for phosphate fertilizers. This area occupies 11% of the total area. If we were apply the average weighted norm of NP(S) 20:20:14 into this zone, we would receive a over application of 254 kg / ha. In the zone with applicatiom of 222 kg / ha, the over application would be 32 kg / ha, and in the zone with the need of 319 kg / ha –there was the lack of application of 65 kg / ha. In general, the NP(S) 20:20:14 savings with differentiated fertilization is 1.35 tons. At the same time, fertilizers were applied in plots as much as necessary to optimize the conditions of growth and development
Of course, the introduction of innovative technologies requires some costs. The average payback period for digital solutions is 1-7 years. This is not cheap and not fast – it seems at first glance. However, taking into account the trends of the world market – the increase in the cost of resources, in particular land rent, increased competition, etc., it is easy to imagine the benefits. Companies, who have become on the path of precise agriculture, do not pay attention to it and consistently introduce new elements of this technology. Probably, their own experience proves the best. For example, a comprehensive soil analysis enables to increase resource efficiency by 20-30%. Taking into account today’s prices for fertilizers, the amount is flowing a lot.