Understanding the impact of soil health on crop performance with maps and observations

Understanding the impact of soil health on crop performance with maps and observations

John Twyford redirected his career from business information consulting to organic farming 10 years ago.  He holds an MSc in Organic Framing, is currently an MBA student at Royal Agricultural University and has been using fieldmargin to support his crop monitoring project.  While not part of his studies, John feels that precision agriculture has a role to play in organic farming.

John started using fieldmargin to upload, store and view paper maps of the fields he was studying on web and on his mobile. Combined with observations recorded in the field this has allowed him to gain a greater understanding of how variation in soil type and health was impacting crop performance.

“I have been looking for an app that does what fieldmargin is able to offer for some time. As a farm manger and student I have always been frustrated by dealing with the number of maps that all relate to the same piece of land, such as OS maps, BPS maps, environmental stewardship maps, drainage maps, soil association/series maps, topographical maps, electric cable and water reticulations maps – the list can go on! fieldmargin lets you overlay the maps with an upload service that I have found to be very effective”

For example, a land class map overlaid on his farm map has revealed the fields are composed of both Grade 2 and Grade 3 land.  John has used notes to map the soil series against the field image where he found three different soils were present in the field. Much of the field was compacted, possibly due to field operations being timed to suit the most robust and well drained Sherborne soils which are typical of the area.  

Map showing depth of soil compaction at his trial site.

This information about the different soils present in the field means he will be able to time operations to suit the areas of the field with more sensitive soil and so reduce compaction.

“fieldmargin mobile has also allowed me to record soil compaction measurements against GPS positioned notes in the field. I can then collate and analyse the data later in the office on the web.”

John also used Field Health satellite images in the spring to monitor how uniform crop growth has been on his fields. This allowed him to see how soil type and health affected crop growth and detect issues with drainage.

“The NDVI yield maps have revealed that the north east corner, with the most sensitive soil series, has been behind the rest of the field since establishment. A further wet patch of the east of the field is also visible. Knowing the problem areas means that over the next few season I can make efforts to correct issues.” 

Leave a Reply