As published in Grower November 2011
James Powrie and Dan Bloomer LandWISE Inc.
History of LandWISE
LandWISE was formed in 1999 in Hawke’s Bay, because farmers and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council saw a need for improved soil conservation. Since then we have become involved in precision agriculture as a means to better care of soil and water, and for more profitable and sustainable farming. We have worked with farmers and others over much of New Zealand.
Today LandWISE is a sustainable cropping group of about 600 farmers, supporters and researchers from around NZ and the world. It is a meeting place for those who want to continue to push back boundaries and improve their farming business with technology. LandWISE aims for real gains from innovation. We conduct on-farm research, host field events and an annual conference.
Trends toward better cropping – GPS guidance and controlled traffic farming (CTF)
Growers sometimes continue with poor practices out of habit. It is not always easy for them to see where they are losing soil quality and money, but the search is always worth it. The more aware growers are always looking to improve their operations. This leads us into technologies that can help.
GPS guidance gives the opportunity for farmers to avoid overlaps or misses in their operations. This means less waste of “soil, oil and toil”. Cost and time savings of more around 10% are common from these field efficiencies alone. Also less land is wasted when rows are neatly laid out using GPS.
Using GPS guidance has many other advantages which may surprise growers who invest. Freedom from concentrating on driving straight means less fatigue and operators can then use a phone, arrange other jobs, even use a laptop in the cab. Also, they are able to devote more attention to the implement, which is where the money is made or lost.
Controlled traffic farming is also finding favour across many crop types in New Zealand. RTK GPS and auto-steering allows the same wheel tracks to be used again, pass after pass, saving fuel and reducing tracked area in the paddock.
Remedial tillage never restores soil to where it was and it is very expensive, so using controlled traffic to reduce compaction can pay off very quickly.
Many tractors you see in paddocks are either wasting energy or working against the effort invested in earlier operations. Make sure yours aren’t!
Ask yourself: Can I align wheel widths and implement spacings to traffic less soil?
LandWISE Protocols for GPS guidance
When setting up GPS guidance and using it on your farm, there are some essential steps for success. LandWISE farmers found this out the hard way, and so the Protocols for GPS Guidance were established. Because farmers helped to put them together, they have been tested again and again.
The latest version of the “Protocols for GPS Guidance” is on the LandWISE website www.landwise.org.nz in the resources section. It includes recommendations and check lists to help avoid the pain others experienced.
- Have a list of paddock names so they are spelt the same way every time.
- Have a set format for labeling AB lines so they are retrievable. You use them again, so that other operations match as planned.
- Measure and match implement details to those in the GPS, so that there will be no gaps and no overlaps
- Redo calibrations if the GPS is moved between tractors and when implements are changed.
The checklists include step by step instructions to make sure things are not forgotten. Even experienced operators find them useful, especially at the start of a new season.
LandWISE and you
LandWISE seeks the support of good science, and then communicates learnings from science back to farmers in a way they can relate to. This ensures that problem solving between farmers and others is as smooth as it can be. We treat both successes and failures as opportunities to share information. Our events and membership keep growing. We would be happy to have you as a member too.
If you would like to know more about LandWISE, our conference, events, publications, or to become a member, visit