Building Sustainability with Omnia – Kris Grzelak

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Tuckwell Farms in Suffolk has stepped up its adoption of precision farming tools as part of a drive to increase production, minimise their environmental footprint and buffer the loss of direct support.

Covering 800 ha near Framlingham, Tuckwell Farms aims to become a “centre of excellence” through the use of the best agronomic practices, and the latest in precision technology, which includes the Omnia digital farming platform.

 

Mapping

Having previously used SOYL testing, in 2022 the business swapped to using Omnia and TerraMap’s high definition soil analysis.

“Five to six years ago, our adoption of precision farming was mainly limited to basic yield mapping and guidance on the combine, plus auto-shutoff on the sprayer, but that has stepped up considerably in the last few years,” says farm manager, Kris Grzelak.

Omnia is now being used for all precision mapping, preparing manure, soil and nutrient management plans, and for planning NVZ / manure risk maps and  no-spread zones. “Omnia is very thorough; it’s Environment Agency compliant and has been a real help to us. We apply a reasonable quantity of bought-in manures and bio-solids, so from that perspective Omnia has been particularly helpful and quite effortless really.”

“It’s one of the reasons we had Terramap analysis done, as we were keen to benchmark organic matter to compare future improvements against. We’ll also use Omnia to store the VESS assessments required under the SFI soils standard.”

Connecting Data

Kris highlights the potential value of bringing a range of data together, particularly it’s ability to give answers as to why certain parts of fields perform better than others: “It’s often not just down to one single thing; it can be a combination of several factors that are responsible.”

An on-farm example was revealed after moving to a low-tillage on the predominantly clay loam soil, revealing drainage to be a key issue on the farm…

“Drainage is one of the biggest issues on the farm. We’ve found that poor drainage in a low-till system has affected our bottom line more than the cost of doing a small amount of cultivation.”

“We’re now designing and implementing our own drainage schemes at greatly reduced cost – providing another ‘layer’ of information in Omnia. It’s our only way forward if we want to pursue a low-till cultivation regime, which won’t work without decent drainage.

“While we want to pursue a more regenerative approach and reduce our carbon emissions as much as we can, the farm still has to be profitable. We did find that reducing tillage very quickly affected our bottom line, so felt it was necessary to go ‘back to basics’ and be more flexible with cultivations.”

 

Variable Applications

Once the basics of good drainage are in place, Mr Grzelak put more attention to fine tuning agronomy through approaches such as variable seed and fertiliser applications.

While variable rate seed maps are often based solely on soil type and texture maps, Omnia allows more refinement using field knowledge, historical yield data, and other factors, such as known slug or pest pressure.

“We’re able to use a lot of different layers as a tool to create the right map, not just soil type. We can overlay any data we want really, whether that’s yield maps, or work rate and fuel usage maps from the JD ops centre, to identify potential problem areas.

“There’s a multitude of data you can utilise, and once you start to overlay different layers of information, it gives you some really good answers as to why fields behave in certain ways.”

Variable rate nitrogen applications have also been tried: “I’ve always seen it as the icing on the cake; you need the basics right first. If a field is turning yellow because of poor drainage, putting more nitrogen on isn’t the answer.”

Mapping Nitrogen Efficiency

Tuckwell Farms is installing a JD harvest lab on the combine to measure grain protein on the move.

The plan is to use data from the JD harvest lab to map variations in grain protein straight off the combine, and then use Omnia to analyse this information alongside yield, and nitrogen application maps, to create an overall nitrogen use efficiency map for the whole field.

“This should give us a lot more answers as to why a field might be behaving in a certain way. It might be that we’ve got lower protein because we’ve got higher yields, or if there’s poor NUE, is it because there’s no drainage scheme, or poor drainage on that part of the field?

“We all know yield is a very good indicator as to what’s happening across a field, but NUE is also a very good indicator of other underlying issues that you may have. It’s the benchmark as to how your crop is performing.”

 

Tuckwell Farms, Framlingham, Suffolk

 

  • 800 ha farmed area (including 50 ha of Countryside Stewardship – wild flower margins and winter bird feed)
  • Predominantly clay loam soil
  • Range of crops grown – wheat (mainly feed), oilseed rape, parsley, beans/ peas
  • Cover crops grown ahead of spring-sown crops
  • Mostly low tillage approach to cultivations
  • All John Deere or Vaderstad equipment
  • Started using Omnia and TerraMap in 2022

 

Find more details on TerraMap HERE

 

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