Wheat yields up 15% after three years with RHIZA


AUGUST, 2021


A belief that precision farming still had more to contribute to his business persuaded Fyvie arable and livestock farmer Harry Sleigh to move to Agrii’s RHIZA platform in 2018. Three years later and with first wheat and spring barley yields up 15% he feels his belief has since been vindicated.

For 12 years prior to 2018 HP Sleigh & Sons used a grid-based mapping system and while it had served them well, a desire to apply fertilisers according to the soil type and its nutrient holding capacity led Mr Sleigh to seek a more versatile system.

“The previous system was a decent platform, but we wanted to take precision farming to the next level. The first-generation program we had been using didn’t support our ambition of more targeted and accurate use of inputs,” he says.

After investigating several other systems, he settled on RHIZA partly because of the service support Agrii was able to provide but mainly because the integration it offered enabled more precise use of inputs.

“All users can access the data through the Contour Scout app which makes it easy for everyone on the farm and contractors to use. I no longer have to travel to fields or draw on maps to tell operators which parcels of land have a weed problem or pH imbalance. All the information needed is on the RHIZA program,” he says.

The digital nature of the program has since helped to introduce Mr Sleigh’s two sons to some of the more technical aspects of the farm.

“The accurate soil scanning and analysis that underpins the system is used to create variable rate seed and fertiliser maps. These have resulted in more even crop development which is reflected in the yield maps: first wheat and spring barley yields are up 15% and winter barley a little less so,” he says.

“My sons enjoy using the program and we have also mapped weed patches within fields. I had not initially appreciated the benefits this would offer, but with 1600 acres of owned and rented land to manage, the time savings it has presented when working with staff and contractors has been significant,” he adds.

The previous system had enabled fertiliser use to be cut by about 25% compared with the time before precision applications were adopted but the more

targeted use enabled by the RHIZA platform has cut use by another 15-20%, estimates Mr Sleigh.

“The grid system approach just wasn’t sufficiently accurate. After having the land scanned and sampled, we now have the detail needed to make nutrition plans tailored to the crop and field, including the silage ground where we use a lot of specialist fertilisers.

“It also means we can better manage the variability in our soils. We have areas high in potash and lower in phosphate. We can also see rapid falls in pH, and the RHIZA platform enables us to manage all of this better than we could before,” he says.

The soils are initially scanned and sampled, then subsequently re-sampled every few years to keep track of nutrient changes with the results uploaded to the portal within a few days.

“The portal is improving and the data is clearly presented. New results are added within a few days of the field being visited and are often there before I know the field has been covered. If there are any issues, Charlie Catto, our agronomist is on hand to quickly sort it out or help us interpret the data properly.

“As the system develops and the industry has to adapt new practices in response to changing regulation, I can see it becoming an essential crop management program,” says Mr Sleigh.