Expert opinion

Dutch project to boost precision farming

An interesting project will start in the Netherlands in 2018, aimed at boosting precision farming in the agricultural practice. Wageningen University & Research and farming journal Boerderij – for which I write – will solve problems facing crop growers.

Wageningen UR will bring the expertise, Boerderij will make sure that as many growers as possible will get to know the project. The project’s name is Nationale Proeftuin Precisielandbouw/NPPL (translated into English the National Experimental Ground for Precision Farming) and is commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.

We will start the first year with 6 arable farmers and vegetable growers who want to move forward with the variable dosage of:

  • soil herbicides
  • lime
  • compost
  • haulm stripping
  • phytophthora products
  • and over-fertilisation with nitrogen.

Often, they have the equipment but just can't get started to work with it. There are also farmers who want to start, but don't know what to buy in order to do so.

Precision farming needs a boost

Precision farming is promising, but needs a boost in order for arable farmers and vegetable growers to start using it in their day-to-day practise. As far as technique and software are concerned, much is already possible and many systems are ready for practical use. However, farmers and growers have mostly decided to wait and see what happens.

That is not surprising. Understanding precision farming is one thing, but finding the right data for site-specific cultivation measures yourself, downloading the data and producing job cards with them and entering those into your own machines, is a completely different thing.

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Photo credit: Bert Jansen

NPPL: larger companies, young farmers

Dutch growers are invited to sign up. So far, over 40 growers have already signed up. That is more than enough to choose 6 entrepreneurs. It is striking (or maybe not) that they are, on average, the larger ones, with younger farmers operating them.

In exchange for the help that these growers receive to further master precision farming, they have to share their experiences, good or bad, on the project’s website www.proeftuinprecisielandbouw.nl. The farmers have to tell the public about their struggles, what they need, the help they receive and what that yields (or does not yield). The participating growers are expected to write blogs or even vlogs or explain in front of the camera how the project is working out for them.

Doubts about precision farming

There are at least 2 aspects of the NPPL project that will be particularly interesting:

  1. Obviously, to see if giving precision farming a boost makes a difference. Precision farming is failing to break through at the moment. According to research farmers think it is too complicated in practise and doubt its use. The majority of doubts being about the return on investments. Will the NPPL be able to remove those doubts?
  2. The NPPL is interesting from a journalistic point of view. The role that Boerderij, an independent journal, plays in the project is particularly interesting. We are not only the journalistic spectator, we are closely involved as a partner.

It will not be easy for you to follow the Dutch website. However, you can trust us to keep you posted in Future Farming about the NPPL-developments.