EM-technology

EM-technology is based on the use of mixed types of beneficial microorganisms that live in the natural conditions. Being the centers of growth for rapid multiplication of beneficial micro flora in the soil, they favor a strong growth of plants and animals.

The technology has been invented by Japanese scientist Tero Higa. He studied more than 3,000 basic stocks which provide for the entire life of microorganisms and discovered the essence of their regenerative and degenerative interrelation. Tero Higa has found out that both in the life-giving and pathogenic microorganism environment, about 5% stocks are the leading ones, while the others are able to change their original orientation towards the leaders.

Therefore, if the soil contains more regenerative microorganisms, the environment is also life-giving and the plants thrive and give high yields. If the pathogenic micro leaders dominate, the plants are weakened, susceptible to diseases and pests, the yield is low. Tero Higa selected 86 leading regenerative stocks which perform the whole array of functions for the plant nutrition, protection from diseases and improvement of the soil environment, commonly known as EM (effective microorganisms).

Depending on the new technology intensity and the soil contamination degree, the yield increases 1.5-4 times. Yet the main advantage of EM-technology is the ability to revive the high natural fertility of the soil in 3 to 5 years and reap high-quality eco-friendly  harvest having eliminated the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

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Green Manure

Sideration is the plowing of green plant mass (green fertilizer) in the soil to enrich it with nitrogen and organic matter. The plants are either plowed on the roots rarely, they are mowed and used to fertilize another field or to compost. The plants which are used as green fertilizer are called “green manure crops” or “siderites”, and the plowing of plant green mass is the sideration. Sideration improves the soil structure and its physical properties, enriches the soil with organic matter, nitrogen, nutrients, increases the humus content. Most of green manure crops has the full-blown core structure of a root system with high ability to break through firm soil layers. Ripper abilities of green manure plants are enormous, and the cultivation of green manure crops on the areas with not too firm subarable layer can replace mechanical deep tillage of the soil to some extent and will help to prevent the formation of large, dense soil clumps that appear when plowing or digging.

One can manage to plow green manure crops in the soil without chopping plants  if they are mowed young before the tough fibrous stems appear. But in this case the fertilizing effect will be less intensive as  the mature parts of the plant have the highest nitrogen and protein compounds content.

The main functions of green manure are as follows:

  • to protect the soil from erosion (caused by water and wind);
  • to suppress weeds growth;
  • to improve water holding capacity in the soil;
  • to monitor temperature fluctuations;
  • to restore nutrients circulation;
  • to add nitrogen by biological fixation;
  • to improve the soil biology (macro and micro flora and fauna);
  • to eliminate firm soil layers;
  • to strengthen positive physical properties of the soil;
  • crop rotation with the use of different types of cover crops provide the soil balance and reduce problems with insects, pests and diseases (the soil and crops);
  • permanent addition of organic residues increases the content of organic carbon in the soil.
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Steering

The systems of parallel technological controlling involve the duplication of the operator’s some functions in order to reduce human error, as well as the overhead optimization of an arable area unit. The technology uses the satellite signal transmitted to a display by on-board computer of farm machines to adjust the course. Guided by the satellite data, the driver  keeps the optimal distance between the strips. In addition to the tillage, the parallel controlling is used to fertilize, to spray and to harvest the cultivated area. The system of parallel technological controlling allows to start the work from the point at which it was finished the day before. The technology is particularly important in a poor marking of the field boundaries and in a poor visibility (rain, fog, dust).

Thereby, this technology allows to optimize  field cultivation time, ensures efficient use of the operator’s labor hours, fuel, fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides, helps to minimize wear and tear of equipment, the firming of soil layers; streamline the operations of all units of the company’s vehicle fleet.

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Variable Rate Fertilization

Variable rate fertilization involves the coordinate (point) fertilization of the problem areas of crops, taking into account the heterogeneity of each cultivated area.

The concept of this technology first appeared in the 1980-s in the United States when the government pursued “accurate execution of technological processes for the maximum yield evenly produced throughout the field with the rational use of resources for each  crop cultivation”.

The essence of the technology is more efficient use of fertilizers by developing the ways and technical means for variable rate fertilization when sowing crops.

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Humic Fertilizers

The basis of any humic fertilizer is humic substances. There are humic acids, fulvic acids, salts of these acids (humates and fulvates) and humins, i.e. resistant compounds of humic and fulvic acids with soil minerals. The humic substances originate from biodegradation of plants (leaves, roots, branches), remains of animals, protein bodies of microorganisms. The conversion of organic residues in humic substances is called humification. In contrast to the living cell where organic substances are synthesized in accordance with the genetic code, humification has no set course giving the way to the compounds both simple and more complex than original biomolecules. The products formed are re-synthesized or decomposed, and this process is virtually endless. As a result of numerous reactions in the soils, peat, sapropel and coal, the humic substances accumulate. They are recognized as the first resistant form of organic carbon compounds outside of living organisms.

The scientists have found out that different humic substances, especially humic acids and their salts, can accelerate the plant growth and development. For example, when soaking seeds in the solution of humic fertilizer, the germination, energy and sprouting speed increase significantly. Moreover, the evidence proves that such seeds will have greater bioenergetic power in the next generation.

The key characteristics of humic acids are as follows:

  • accumulative;
  • transport;
  • physiological;
  • regulative;
  • protective.

Humic acids are appropriated by plants through rootage and leafs.

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Satellite Crop Monitoring


 

The technology based on spectral analysis of high resolution satellite crop images which enables to monitor vegetation developments, soil temperature,  humidity and to reveal problem areas on the field. Satellite crop monitoring is also suitable to precise weather forecast based on concrete field coordinates and to recall historical weather data retrospection.

Along with the development of remote sensing applications, satellite monitoring data has become the uppermost data source to monitor large-scale crop condition based on vegetation index analysis. Vegetation images show crop growth from planting through to harvest, changes as the season progresses and abnormalities such as weed patches, soil compaction, watering problems etc. A georeferenced and orthorectified image can locate these problem areas as well as the size of the area affected can be easily determined. Satellite crop monitoring and vegetation control help the farmer make informed decisions about the most feasible solution. In addition to highlighting problematic areas, images will also help monitor the effectiveness of any corrective actions which may be implemented. Images can act as an early indicator of crop yield. This early predictor of yield can aid the farmer in making marketing decisions as well as the allocation of resources.

To gain the benefits from satellite crop monitoring data farmers, managers, consultants and technicians must understand and be able to interpret the image. There are a wide range of enhancement tools available which can help make an image more interpretable for specific applications. Enhancement and classification tools are often used to highlight features. The techniques employed will depend on the type of remote sensed data as well as the objectives of the end user.

The satellite provides imagery data at different spatial, spectral and temporal resolutions for agriculture and crop assessment, crop health, change detection, environmental analysis, irrigated landscape mapping, yield determination and soils analysis. Scheduling and timing of image acquisition is very important and will hinge on the main goals and the type of information that the end user is hoping to gain. Images can show variations in organic matter and drainage patterns. Soils higher in organic matter can be differentiated from lighter sandier soil that has a lower organic matter content. This geospatial information is valuable when used in conjunction with ancillary data to define management zones for a field (1).

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GPS & GIS

Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based satellite navigation system that provides location and time information in all weather, anywhere on or near the Earth, where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites. Commercially, GPS is used as a navigation and positioning tool, meteorologists use it for weather forecasting and global climate studies (1).

Global positioning system (GPS) has revolutionized positioning concept, though it started primarily as a navigation system. As a tool of precision agriculture, Global Positioning System satellites broadcast signals that allow GPS receivers to calculate their position. This information is provided in real time, meaning that continuous position information is provided while in motion. Having precise location information at any time allows crop, soil and water measurements to be mapped. GPS receivers, either carry to the field or mounted on implements allow users to return to specific locations to sample or treat those areas (2).

GPS-based applications in precision farming are being used for farm planning, field mapping, soil sampling, tractor guidance, crop scouting, variable rate applications, and yield mapping. GPS allows farmers to work during low visibility field conditions such as rain, dust, fog, and darkness.

GPS equipment manufacturers have developed several tools to help farmers and agribusinesses become more productive and efficient in their precision farming activities. Today, many farmers use GPS-derived products to enhance operations in their farming businesses. Location information is collected by GPS receivers for mapping field boundaries, roads, irrigation systems, and problem areas in crops such as weeds or disease. The accuracy of GPS allows farmers to create farm maps with precise acreage for field areas, road locations and distances between points of interest. GPS allows farmers to accurately navigate to specific locations in the field, year after year, to collect soil samples or monitor crop conditions (3).

Geographic information system (GIS) is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographical data. The acronym GIS is sometimes used for geographical information science or geospatial information studies to refer to the academic discipline or career of working with geographic information systems.  In the simplest terms, GIS is the merging of cartography, statistical analysis, and database technology (4).

GIS maps are interactive. On the computer screen, map users can scan a GIS map in any direction, zoom in or out, and change the nature of the information contained in the map. Balancing the inputs and outputs on a farm is fundamental to its success and profitability. The ability of GIS to analyze and visualize agricultural environments and workflows has proved to be very beneficial to those involved in the farming industry.  While natural inputs in farming cannot be controlled, they can be better understood and managed with GIS applications such as crop yield estimates, soil amendment analyses, and erosion identification and remediation.

Enhancing a GIS with land-cover data layers has proved helpful to crop growers’ associations, crop insurance companies, seed and fertilizer companies, farm chemical companies, libraries, universities, federal and state governments, and value-added remote-sensing/GIS companies. Agribusinesses refer to the data to site new facilities for retail supplies and equipment, route transportation of crops and goods, and forecast harvests and sales (5).

 

 

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Strip-Till

Strip-till is the conservation system that uses a minimum tillage. It combines the soil drying and warming benefits of conventional tillage with the soil-protecting advantages of no-till by disturbing only the portion of the soil that is to contain the seed row. This type of tillage is performed with special equipment and can require the farmer to make multiple trips, depending on the strip-till implement used, and field conditions. Each row that has been strip-tilled is usually about eight to ten inches wide. Another benefit of strip-tilling is that the farmer can apply chemicals and fertilizer at the same time as tillage (1).

Strip-till combines the soil drying and warming benefits of conventional tillage with the soil-protecting advantages of no-till (2). Strip till warms the soil, it allows an aerobic condition, and it allows for a better seedbed than no-till. Strip-till allows the soil’s nutrients to be better adapted to the plant’s needs, while still giving ground coverage to the soil between the rows. The system will still allow for some soil water contact that could cause erosion, however, the amount of erosion on a strip-tilled field would be light compared to the amount of erosion on a conventionally tilled field. Furthermore, when liquid fertilizer is being applied, it can be directly applied in these rows where the seed is being planted, reducing the amount of fertilizer needed while improving proximity of the fertilizer to the rootzone. Compared to conventional tillage, strip tillage saves considerable time and money. Strip tillage can reduce the amount of trips through a field down to two or possibly one trip when using a strip till implement combined with a planter. This can save the farmer a considerable amount of time and fuel, while reducing soil compaction due to few passes in a field. With the use of GPS guided tractors, this precision farming can increase overall yields (3).

No-till planters have a disk opener (commonly referred to as a no-till coulter) that is located in front of the planting unit. This coulter is designed to cut through crop residue and into the hard crust of the soil. After the coulter has broken through the residue and crust, the disk opener of the planting unit slices the soil and the seed is dropped into the furrow that has been created and then a press wheel closes the furrow. The pictures are of no-till drills and they use the same principles as discussed above to plant the season’s crops. With strip-tillage systems more precision is needed. The farmer will work the ground with a specialized implement to till up an eight to ten inch row and at the same time incorporate the fertilizer or chemical that the farmer so chooses. If the applicator’s chemical or fertilizer meter is off slightly, the farmer will not be applying an accurate rate of the chemical. This could result in increased expenses or reduction of the efficacy of the fertilizer program (4). There are many variations of strip-till equipment, but the following is typical: row cleaner, coulter, tillage shank, and ‘covering’ disks. All components are mounted on a tool bar equipped with row markers. It must be the same width as the corn planter, or multiple thereof, because the planter will run precisely where the strips are placed (5).

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No-Till

 

No-till farming means the way of growing crops from year to year without disturbing the soil through tillage. No-till is an agricultural technique which increases the amount of water and nutrients in the soil and decreases erosion. It increases the amount and variety of life in and on the soil (1).

According to FAO in 1999 no-tillage farming was adopted on about 45 million ha in the world, growing to 72 mln ha in 2003 and to 111 mln ha in 2009, corresponding to an growth rate of  6 mln ha per annum.  Fastest adoption rates have been experienced in South America where some countries are using no-tillage farming on about 70% of the total cultivated area (2).

The idea of modern no-till started in the 1940s with Edward Faulkner, but it wasn’t until the development of several chemicals after WWII that various researchers and farmers started to try out the idea. The first adopters of no-till include Klingman (North Carolina), Edward Faulkner, L.A. Porter (New Zealand), Harry and Lawrence Young (Herndon, Kentucky), the Instituto de Pesquisas Agropecuarias Meridional (1971 in Brazil) with Herbert Bartz (3).

No-till supports the principles of minimum-tillage by reducing tillage to only one operation: opening the soil for the seed at planting time. No-till has been adopted widely for corn, soybeans,  and cowpeas.  For example, corn can be planted in the stubble from the previous crop or in a mulch of other cover crops which have been killed by a herbicide.  The practice is spreading to other crops, including small grains. Because it eliminates conventional tillage operations, no-till farming saves on energy and labor costs.  Switching from conventional to no-till, in fact, can save up to 75 % of the energy used for standard tillage (4).

No-tillage technologies have a great potential to increase organic matter content of the soil and sequester carbon while building and maintaining good soil structure and health compared to intensive tillage systems that does exactly the opposite. The no-till system is very effective to increase soil water infiltration, to reduce evaporation from soil and also to reduce water run-off. The water availability for crops is increased, offering the opportunity to improve general soil functioning and crop performance. The principles are equally useful for both rain-feed or irrigated cropping condition (5).

Advantages of minimum and no-till systems are:

  • less energy and labor are required for tillage and planting;
  • energy and labor in the total production process are reduced;
  • fewer farm machinery is needed;
  • water runoff is reduced, which is beneficial in two ways: more water is available for the crop and soil erosion is reduced;
  • crop yields are equal to or better than under conventional tillage.
  • planting times are more  flexible.

Disadvantages of minimum and no-till systems are:

  • specialized planting equipment is needed, although there are the alternative options of hand labor and modified conventional planters;
  • herbicides must be used often and with accuracy;
  • sometimes, it is difficult to cover the seed in a no-till situation;
  • applying herbicide and fertilizer is difficult due to the absence of rows or lines to follow;
  • if the ground is hard due to lack of rain, the planter may not be able to penetrate the soil (6).
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