It’s been a long, wet winter but at last the end is in sight. The trees are coming back into leaf and the days are getting longer. Weather conditions have finally been good enough for field work to start. Lambs can be seen in the fields. Here are our tips for preparing for the new season to make it as successful as possible.
In this article we will cover:
🌾 Setting up field usages to produce a colour coded map of your crops and livestock and plan rotations
📋 Planning work – this includes field operations like drilling and fertiliser application as well as livestock treatments and day-to-day tasks
👩🌾 Sharing your farm with your team so that they can access maps and jobs
🔢 Tracking data – whether it’s input use for costings, crop scouting, soil sampling or grass availability having easy-to-refer to data is key to aid decision-making and understand what is working or not
🛰 Using satellite imagery to monitor your fields from space
Set up your cropping or field uses for the season
It has been a difficult winter for lots of UK farmers. Many will have had to change cropping plans due to the wet autumn preventing drilling winter crops or losses due to flooding. Hopefully by now it will have been possible to get started with drilling of spring crops or at least know what is going where.
With fieldmargin you can record what is in each of your fields, see them colour coded on the map and get totals for each of your usages.
Your farm records are grouped into Farm Years. This means that you can switch between views of cropping for different years to check on rotations. You can read more about this in our rotations guide here.
You can set up or edit your cropping using the bulk set use feature. This allows you to choose all of the fields that you want to have a certain usage such as crop type by selecting them on a list or on the map. You can also see the usage of each field for previous years.
We know that in farming it is impossible to plan with certainty because you are dealing with the weather and natural processes. However, our mothers taught us the old adage “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. Knowing what work needs to be done and when helps farm work run much more smoothly. Work does not get forgotten. Everyone, whether you are a one man band or a large team, knows what is coming up and when so you are always ready to get to work on the next thing.
“With Field Jobs I can keep track of everything that needs to be applied like fertiliser and herbicide use. I can quickly see when the farm manager completed tasks as he gets things done. Even if I’m 200 kilometres away, I can load tasks and keep an eye on progress.”Charl Botha – Livestock farmer, South Africa
Before you start setting up your work make sure you have the right Farm Year selected. This will help you to keep records organised and is used to produce reports for your farm.
Set up field work
You might not know exact dates when jobs will done but you can start with a rough plan of key planting, application or harvesting dates. This could just be a title and rough due date for now and then more information can be added such as inputs later in the season.
Specific instructions such equipment to use or recommendation sheets from your agronomist can be added with comments and file attachments.
You can find instructions for how to create Field Jobs and record inputs on them here. As you add inputs to your jobs your reports will be updated with the totals you are projected to use which you can use for ordering quantities and costings.
Add other key jobs you want to remember
Add in other tasks that will need to be done. For example livestock treatments or movements, machinery maintenance/checks prior to key operations, tissue testing and scouting reminders.
You can set these up using tasks. These can be attached to fields, have a location drawn on the map (e.g. you might want to set machinery maintenance tasks where your machinery shed is) or have no location for general farm tasks. Like Field Jobs you can tag people to let them know about work they need to do, set due dates and add comments and pictures with more information. You can learn how to create tasks here.
Using your to-do list
All of the work that you set up appears on the Activity list for your farm, it is automatically sorted so that the most recently edited records are at the top. You can filter this so that it only shows incomplete jobs that you are tagged in using the filter.
As work is done it can be marked as complete. This will automatically record the date it was done and who did it. If you forget to record that something was completed at the time you can edit the completed date so your records are correct.
Make sure your team is set up
fieldmargin is most powerful when all of your farm team uses it.
All your farm data is automatically synced to the cloud and available on all your team’s devices.
This allows you to:
📞 Spend less time on the phone checking on work or explaining where issues are. Team mates can see the location of jobs on the map and you get notified as soon as they are done or if there is a question.
🖨 Print less. All maps and job sheets can be accessed on your team’s phone saving you time, frustration dealing with uncooperative printers, and money on paper and ink.
🗃 Keep records up to date. All work is updated as it’s done so no need to set aside hours to type up completed job sheets.
“The amount of fields we deal with is massive, we were working with over 10 ring binders of paper maps. It has been great to digitise them. It means that the whole team can access them on their tablet in the cabs.”Rob Boole – Spraying contractor, UK
It also helps you to keep your team safe. You can add hazards to your map (particularly useful if you have temporary workers coming on-board for harvest) and ask your team to share their location when using the app (good for lone workers).
We understand that transitioning to a new system can be hard, particularly for those who aren’t big fans of technology! That’s why we wrote this handy guide to help you get your team started.
Be ready to track your data
“If you’re not measuring it you can’t manage it”. The top goal shared by farmers in our end of year survey was collect more data. Recording the right data on your farm is key to identifying areas for improvement, seeing if changes are having the desired result and understanding how you stack up against other farms.
“The big problem I have faced is that after 4-5 years I go back to the office and all my year books are very busy, complicated or information may have been thrown away. That is why I really like using fieldmargin – being able to keep everything together and separated by year is really important.”Willie Liebenberg – Mixed farmer, SA
Inputs and yields
Keeping track of what you have applied to your fields and what comes off is import for meeting legal record keeping requirements. However it also makes it simple to look back and see how different treatments impacted crop performance.
You can use reporting to get your total input usage per field and across your farm and export reports to use in costings and gross margins.
Scouting and observations
Use located notes with pictures for scouting and to track observations and issues around the farm. By having notes and pictures stored in one place rather than in notebooks, camera rolls or emails you ensure they don’t get lost. This means they are easier to refer to later in the season so that you can see how they impacted end results. For example if you have the areas where you had weed or waterlogging issues mapped out at harvest time you can match this up with your yield map.
“By making everything digital I can easily see how decisions turned out.”Adam Foden – Assistant Vineyard Manager, UK
Numerical measurements that are taken at the same location over time can be recorded using Monitoring Sites. Some things you can use this for include rainfall measurement, tracking pest counts, plant counts, soil testing data or plate meter measurements. You can find more ideas for using monitoring sites here.
Learn how to use Satellite Imagery to save time scouting and spot problems earlier
Field Health gives you access to regularly updated (on average weekly) satellite imagery of your farm with NDVI analysis to see at a glance where you have high or low vegetation levels. Use this to spot problems such as disease or nutrient deficiencies earlier. This saves time since you can focus your crop scouting on these areas and helps farm profitability by allowing you to treat them before they cause significant damage.
Kieran Walsh, agronomist at Velcourt and Hands Free Hectare, has used satellite imagery to support his crop monitoring to measure the spread of weeds and disease.
“It doesn’t stop the flea beetle issue, but it does show the impact of the problem and help map out and measure the areas that you may re-drill with a different crop. Ground truthing areas of what I have mapped out to carry on with, it is very accurate.”
If you need any help getting started with any of this on your farm we are always here to offer help and support. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on (+44) 203 289 4200. Do you have other ways you use fieldmargin we haven’t included? Let us know!