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International Perspective: OptRx Field Trials in Europe

by Mar 29, 2011International Perspectives

Chad F. and a grower discussing OptRx.

The weather has started to warm up and dry up over here in Europe and that can only mean one thing – time to go to the field! This is the time of year when spring crops are sown, vegetables planted and nitrogen applied to the winter crops, and it is the nitrogen application I am focusing on for this blog. As most of you probably know, Ag Leader introduced the OptRx crop sensor system in 2009, and we have set up a number of trials throughout Europe since then. For the first year, it was mostly controlled trials carried out by universities and specialist organisations such as ADAS. We also carried out a very limited number of field scale trials. This year, we have expanded our field scale trials so that we can have better information on how the sensors are performing. So during the week of March 14th, Chad Fick (OptRx Product Specialist) came over to Europe to join me on a brief tour of some of our users. We spent the first two days in the UK visiting three OptRx users. The first farm was JJ and TW Morley who farm 400ha in Leicestershire. They were one of the first users of OptRx last year and have been satisfied with the performance so far.

Setting up the reference strip.

Next stop that same day was about 1 1/2 hours north in Boston to visit RAC Contracting. This company is actually based close to the previous farm we visited but cover a wide area in the UK for custom fertiliser application. This is their first year with OptRx and they are taking a cautious approach. A few fields have been handpicked to carry out some trials and if all is successful, they will start offering variable rate N services to their customers.

One of the few fields in the UK with no tramlines!

Our final stop in the UK was at Harnage Estates who farm approximately 1400ha in Shropshire. They have been using sensors for a few years now but have now opted to buy an OptRx system as opposed to leasing a previous unit. Apart from OptRx, they have DirectCommand for the sprayer and yield monitoring for the two combines. Doug is the operator who we visited and he has been pleased with the way the Ag Leader system is working for him, but has also suggested some improvements we could make along the way.

Applying N on a typical British day.

Our next stop was over in France about  two hours north of Bordeaux. Here we were meeting with Nicolas Vieren from Satplan and one of his customers, Mr. Vincent. They farm about 800ha and have also been used to using VRA N, but through satellite imagery. This year they have decided to try real time VRA and are using the OptRx system, which is their first Ag Leader product. This has been fitted to one of the widest machines I have ever seen!A 40m wide Airtec sprayer.

The visit culminated in a trip to the Netherlands to visit Jacob van den Borne, who is one of the largest potato producers in the country (click here to see their website). This was a very interesting trip, as Jacob has done some extensive comparative studies with a variety of sensors on the market. He is currently compiling the results from his 2010 trials which will make for some interesting reading! As I am writing this, some users are already on the 2nd application of N for OSR (Canola) and already are citing some interesting observations about the areas that have been applied by OptRx.