Soil Mapping for Horticulture Efficiency with Richard Capper

Digital mapping systems in horticultural crops are not yet as widely used as in arable crops, but early adopter Richard

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Viewing the latest technology as key to driving efficiency and profitability in what can be a demanding business environment, Richard Capper started using Omnia in 2017. “The prices we receive don’t change very much, yet our costs can, so we are continually looking to become more efficient. We also have to follow tight Integrated Pest Management (IPM) guidelines and meet specific standards for the crops we supply, so welcome any new tools to help achieve this.”

Managing an 80 ha family farm on the Worcestershire/ Herefordshire border, growing cider apples, dessert fruit for supermarkets, and 8 varieties of hops, Richard has recently started using TerraMap to map nutrients – adding a new level of details to crop management.

 

Until now, lime has been applied on a flat-rate basis for individual fields every three to four years, based on standard soil testing. However, going forward, Mr Capper plans to use TerraMap data to formulate a variable rate application plan in Omnia, targeting lime only where it is needed to reduce pH variability.

Previously, the field has been treated as one based on standard soil sampling results, however once the move to variable rate fertiliser has been made, Mr Capper will tailor applications to the specific requirements of each variety and the levels of soil potash.

“I didn’t set out to save money on inputs,” he says. “The aim is to focus inputs more accurately to improve the consistency and quality of our cropping. It’s about putting the right thing in the right place. If there’s a cost saving from doing this, that’s an added benefit.”

Mr Capper acknowledges the traditional approach of clearing hop yards and leaving ground bare over winter does mean organic matter tends to be quite low, however he is already working to remedy this with cover crops. A rye, oat and phacelia mix is sown at a high seed rate down the rows in the autumn, then topped and incorporated into the soil in early summer before it competes with the hops.

This replenishes some of the organic matter lost when leaf and vine material is removed at the end of the season – material that is currently mulched and spread under apple trees to help suppress weeds, add organic matter and support soil biology in the orchards.

“Our understanding of soils is increasing all the time, but there’s still an awful lot more to learn. TerraMapping moves the whole game forward and as a grower it is fascinating to be able to identify differences and plan how to address them,” Mr Capper concludes.

 

Find more details on TerraMap HERE and find out about our Omnia Business Manager services HERE

 

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