September 28, 2022
  • September 28, 2022

How farmers can benefit from the new rotation planning tool

By on September 2, 2022 0

The launch of a new farm rotation planning tool is expected to benefit users by calculating the cost of a range of potential crop and machine scenarios.

The Business Performance module developed by Omnia Digital Farming offers an industry first for full farm rotation planning, helping farmers take the guesswork out of decision making.

The development uses individual farm data to financially assess a range of potential crop and machinery scenarios, and displays the results visually.

Whether planning a crop rotation or choosing a crop type, users have the information they need to make informed choices in terms of financial performance and emissions measured in carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).

See also: Harvest 2022: Map of the 5 best performing spring barley varieties

The development of the Business Performance module follows the launch in 2021 of the company’s Field Performance module, which retrospectively calculates the production cost of field operations in £/t, CO2e/t and CO2e/ha.

Omnia’s Oliver Wood explains that the digital platform is an industry first and that there is currently no other set of tools like it. “It will be a real benefit for farmers, allowing them to create a digital version of an entire crop rotation on their farm,” he says.

“At the end of the day, people make decisions based on their bottom line and net margin, but more so within the industry, carbon dioxide emissions become more important. This platform opens the door to farmers to assess which practice is best for their farm and to help reduce emissions.”

How it works

As with all developments within Omnia, data is visualized through multiple layers or maps, making it simple and user-friendly.

For each crop, it is possible to include variable costs and operations, or use those already defined in the “virtual machine hangar” of the Field Performance module, and then add the rotation.

Revenues, variable costs, gross margin, fixed costs, net margin and CO2 equivalent are calculated per hectare, as well as over the year. Additionally, a range of crop scenarios or machines can be run side-by-side for easy comparison.

Example culture

Will Foyle, agricultural business consultant at agronomist Hutchinsons, gives an example of using the performance module to look at the implications of changing from a tillage type disc seeder to a direct seeder on a rotation of five years.

By entering revenues, variable costs, gross margin and fixed costs into the program, he reveals that the use of a direct drill will reduce fixed costs by 27% to 22% as a percentage of production, while CO2e emissions are also reduced.

Will Foyle © Hutchinsons

This despite the fact that revenues, variable costs and gross margin remained the same during the year.

What is truly remarkable, Mr Foyle points out, is that the net margin increases by £83/ha or £25,908/year.

Another scenario could be to assume that crop rotation and production remain the same, but with different yield penalties applied.

“The module can be used to calculate the cost of any range of scenarios in terms of pounds and carbon, before implementing them on the farm,” says Foyle. “It really is an invaluable exercise for any grower to undertake before making any changes to current rotations or farm machinery to make the right decisions in what is currently a confusing picture.”

The Rotation Platform Tool is available to anyone, and users do not need to be a Hutchinsons customer.

Why is this so important?

UK agriculture is under increasing pressure to manage production at a time of skyrocketing costs and pressure to cut emissions.

The economics of different crops are changing rapidly as market prices fluctuate and the response to fertilizer needs changes.

The demand for oilseeds is currently higher, which means that the rotations are being analyzed more closely.

Will Foyle of Hutchinsons says: “This comes at a time when grants are shrinking and there is more emphasis on increasing costs.

“Currently there is strong demand for land uses, such as short-term rentals for roots, vegetables, corn and rye. Opportunities for third-party payments from water companies to fund cover crops, the emergence of biodiversity net gain markets and the impact of carbon all contribute to changes in crops that need to be assessed.