Advanced Farming Systems Project and LandWISE

Growers from Pukekohe to Canterbury are gearing up with technology to increase returns and improve the structure and water holding capacity of their soils.  They are part of the LandWISE Advanced Farming Systems project which is being run with help from the Sustainable Farming Fund, FAR and industry supporters.
These farmers are putting high accuracy GPS into their tractors, and making changes to their farming systems to gain improved soil health, savings on fuel, water, steel, fertilizer and agrichemicals and reduced Green House Gas (GHG) emissions.  
The crops grown include maize and cereals, potatoes, process and fresh market vegetables and salad crops for supermarkets.  In every sector, there is an advanced farming systems application of benefit. “This project is very much a partnership with FAR,” says LandWISE’s Dan Bloomer. “It’s not about technology off the shelf, it’s about how we use technology to allow smarter farming.”
Advanced Farming Systems is a term that describes the integration of new technologies into farming.   High accuracy GPS makes it possible to farm in new ways, by precisely guiding tractors and implements and capturing, recording and managing information.  Some of the farmers are investigating alternative approaches to soil management, others are focused on weeds or soil moisture. 
Canterbury arable farmer and contractor, Randal Hanrahan, has been establishing Advanced Farming Systems on his family farm in Ashburton.  “We have invested a lot in this property and now need to make sure we farm it as efficiently as possible”.  Randal has converted from border dyke to centre pivot to improve water use efficiency and flexibility.  Using GPS is allowing him to make the same kind of shift with cropping systems.  “We invested in GPS to improve our contracting business, now it is changing the way we farm, and it is exciting to see the changes it allows us to make.”
GPS with autosteer gives immediate savings in fuel, fertiliser, seed and time inputs, just by avoiding overlaps and increasing field work efficiency.  Randal is aiming to get a controlled traffic system up and running.   “That is challenging”, he says, “because our equipment has many different wheel tracks and swath widths.  But because we know where we want to be, we are planning for that as we replace equipment.  Compaction compromises our soil and so it is worth investing to do less of that.”  Farm labour challenges make it harder to find an operator with the skills to drive straight.   GPS and autosteer means that anyone can and then they can focus on the implement and the soil. Randal says, “Once they are skilled in GPS, any operator can become your best”.
Chris Butler at NZ Fresh Cuts is also using high accuracy GPS and tractor guidance.  His initial focus is removing higher cost cultivation operations. Growing crops on permanent beds is reducing compaction in their maize, salad and carrot production.  “Our fuel savings are recovering the cost of the investment in GPS.  Our gains in operational efficiency, reduced cultivation time and R&M are a big bonus”- Chris says. 
NZ Fresh Cuts also experience land utilisation gains, because they spend less time waiting for weather and soil conditions to be right for cultivation and planting operations.  “Salad greens are in and out very fast”, says Chris. “If we can avoid between-crop delays, we can grow more crops in the same piece of ground.”  “We are also expecting to see water stored more effectively as these soils improve, which should reduce any risk of nutrient leaching,” he says.
Farmers like Chris are adopting Advanced Farming Systems as a key to improving sustainability and profit in the face of economic and environmental challenges. 
They are finding their investment in Advanced Farming Systems can reduce overall capital and variable costs and improve profitability in ground breaking ways.  Some participating farmers have reduced their fleets in both tractor numbers and horsepower. 
David Clark adopted RTK-GPS and controlled traffic farming for maize in 2003.  Conventional cropping at his farm, Opou Station, near Gisborne had David concerned about compaction, soil structure and reduced earthworm presence. Since adopting a controlled traffic system, the soils are improving and earthworm activity is increasingly present.  “Before controlled traffic we seemed to have a slow drop in yields, but now those yields are climbing again,” David says.
David has seen his fuel use halved since investing in GPS and reduced his tractor fleet from four to two. “The fuel tanker driver asked me where I had been getting my fuel” he says. “As the soil frees up, it requires less energy to work and that means less fuel.  We generally direct drill now and strip-till where we need a bit of cultivation, usually to tidy up headlands.”
In conjunction with FAR, LandWISE will hold field days on Advanced Farming Systems, to allow those interested to view new technology being used on farms around New Zealand.  Anyone and everyone are welcome to register with LandWISE to receive notification of events.
To learn more about Advanced Farming Systems, GPS and Precision Agriculture see:  
Information requests to or Phone Dan Bloomer or James Powrie at 06 6504531.
Trends in GPS use
LandWISE is supporting the integration of GPS and other tools into the mainstream.  Dan Bloomer of LandWISE says: “The trend is for new users of GPS to keep adding GPS units into their tractor fleets, once they see the benefits.  They start with driving straight rows and gain immediate field efficiency, and savings from that. 
Why Farmers Join LandWISE
LandWISE draws together farmers, advisors, science providers and regulators to work co-operatively on more sustainable crop production.
LandWISE is a small organization with a strong track record of supporting development and adoption of new technologies.  LandWISE has much to offer as we confront the challenges of climate change. 
More farmers want to learn ways to improve profitability, while reducing GHG emissions and improving soil and farm resilience in the face of climate change.  This happens with fewer cultivation passes and reduced tractor horsepower requirements which can result from GPS use in cropping.
James Powrie of LandWISE says, “When you join LandWISE you join an excellent group of farmers who are bringing new technology into their businesses to be more successful into the future.” 
Members get discounted attendance at the LandWISE conference, held in May.  Farmers and industry people meet there each year to learn how new technologies can be used to enhance soils, refine water and nutrient management and reduce chemical, fuel and labour inputs.  This is the event in NZ for farmers wanting to learn more about GPS and precision agriculture.
Sign up two people from your organisation and register a third for free.

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