Croatia - not a country that immediately comes to mind when talking about precision farming. However, in this country of 4.5 million people there is one company that is now adopting this new technology. Agrokor Group is the largest farming company in Croatia and farms approximately 40,000 ha with a variety of crops from wheat to vineyards. Agrokor Group was formed in 1995 but one of its companies dates back to 1697!
Agrokor has always been ahead of the curve in terms of innovation and management practices; one example of this is the wheat crop. Average yield for Croatia is approximately 4t/ha (metric tons/hectare) but Agrokor have managed to double this yield to 8t/ha by using modern farming practices and management.
Recently, they have started exploring the world of precision farming. The main driving factors behind this are to improve productivity and efficiencies whilst maintaining a high quality product. It wasn't long before they discovered Ag Leader. Within the space of a couple of months, I visited the farm for the first time with Ag Leader distributor Findri. Our mission was to test variable rate application (VRA) of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) based on a prescription map using the Ag Leader InSight™ display and Bogballe fertilizer spreader. Testing was a resounding success and has since been followed up with a second visit by me and Ag Leader staff.
OptRx™ (Ag Leader's new crop sensor) was also of great interest to Agrokor, not only because of the benefits of real-time VRA nitrogen (N), but also because it seamlessly integrates with their existing equipment. Initial testing was a success and further trials are to be carried out this year. The main focus of the trials is to see what real world benefits this technology can bring to Agrokor. What they are hoping for is more efficient use of N, not necessarily larger yields.
It is a common misconception that VRA N will increase yields when this is not necessarily always the case. The main goal of this technology is to put product where it is needed and not waste it where it is not needed. In some cases this many mean higher average yields, in other cases it may mean less N use, but maintaining average yield.
For 2010, trials will be conducted in various locations withing the Agrokor Company and will compare standard practise of applying a flat rate of N versus VRA N using the sensors. Both practices will rely on local agronomic input to make sure the best results are achieved. As with the initial trails for VRA P and K, the University of J.J. Strossmayer in Osijek, Faculty of Agriculture will be involved to validate the results and carry out any statistical analysis.