This month Emily Ashworth and Hannah Park look at how the sector is evolving by taking on innovative new technologies.
THANKS to Bishop Burton’s status as part of the Institute of Technology, the college is in a fortunate position to have access to cutting-edge precision agriculture equipment on its farm. This means the college can implement the precision agriculture strategies, techniques and equipment, and a prime example of this is applying inputs more precisely and improving soil health to reduce reliance on carbon intensive inorganic fertilisers.
James Richardson, farm manager, says: “One of the changes we have made this year is moving fully towards using variable rate technology, be this for applying seeds, fertilisers, or pesticides. Using Rhiza’s Contour system, all these maps are created in the same piece of software. We can create our prescription maps according to a variety of factors. For example, with seeds, we are using conductivity testing to vary seed rates and using soil zoning by indices for P and K fertilisers. With our Mzuri drill we can do both simultaneously, applying a variable rate seed plan and variable rate seedbed fertiliser in one pass.
“Another step we have taken is using the same system to produce variable rate nitrogen plans using satellite imagery.
Cutting carbon emissions
“This technology measures the condition of the crop, allowing us to target expensive inputs where we will get the best return. Getting the most out of these inputs is crucial for the college, not only as fertilisers are at eyewatering prices but also that fertiliser makes up around 25 per cent of the carbon emissions associated with producing wheat.
“Therefore, this technology is not only yielding a financial benefit, but an environmental one too.”
James is passionate about regenerative farming and he is constantly working to achieve zero carbon net status, while retaining high standards of animal welfare and day-to-day operations.
“It is a real privilege to work on-farm at Bishop Burton where so much emphasis is placed on preparing the next generation of farmers and upskilling the current agricultural workforce,” says Mr Richardson.
“Technology is a real enabler and vital to the future of farming – to improve yields, efficiency and ensure we protect the land for future generations. Exposure to precision agriculture equipment and methods will make students more employable as nearly all farmers and landowners will increasingly need these technologies. While the future of the sector seems uncertain, I remain confident.
“Here at the college, by exposing students and fellow agricultural professionals to precision agriculture technologies and techniques, we are sowing the seeds for a sustainably farmed future.
“Carefully farmed environments with varied cropping, sensitively managed hedges and strategic grazing of animals supported by technology is a future of farming which I am excited to see. It will be challenging, but I am certain the industry can rise to the occasion as we have in the past, through continued innovation and evolving to meet farming needs.”