Tractors on Steroids

By Julie Havercroft

A field day in Lion’s Den co-hosted by Brink Bosman, Blue Sky Farming, and Agricon Equipment, brought farmers from countrywide to see for themselves, some of the very latest farming technology in action. Bosman gave working demonstrations of the tractors, combine harvesters, seed planters, harrows, rippers and sprayers and other equipment that he uses on his row crops. There was over 5000 horsepower of machinery on display. The technology displayed was cutting edge. Field mapping and Global Positioning Systems (GPS), were the order of the day. In other parts of the world, this kind of precision farming is not new and it is gathering momentum worldwide. Mechanisation plays a large part in the drive for greater farming efficiency. But in Zimbabwe, it is relatively new and this field day attracted a large amount of interest.

However, this kind of equipment comes at a price. But, in the long term, that initial outlay is offset by earlier germination, optimal yields, less wastage of chemicals and fertiliser and more efficient planting systems. This means a farmer will have more control over input costs and crop yields. The CASE tractors were massive and, in some cases, “driverless”, and this equipment was being used here for large scale wheat, maize, and soya farming, but it certainly piqued the interest of all the farmers who came to see it working. Agricon Equipment equips the tractors with Trimble GPS systems and also sells unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to farmers.

This is farming today and this is also farming for the future. Zimbabwean farmers have a part to play in the regeneration of Zimbabwe’s economy and farming like this goes a long way in contributing. Research predicts that expected global population levels will reach 9.5 billion and current food production must effectively double to feed every mouth. With new technological advancements in farming, every farmer would be able to contribute to increased production using the same hectarage. What is field mapping? It is satellite farming or site-specific crop management and is a farming management concept based on observing, measuring and responding to field variability in crops. The goal of this is to optimise returns on inputs while preserving resources.

It has been enabled by the advent of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS). (Source: Wikipedia). Variables that can be measured by the farmer’s ability to locate their precise location in a field are:

  • Crop yield
  • Topography/terrain
  • Organic matter content
  • Moisture
  • Nitrogen
  • pH
  • Mineral levels

Images provided by Julie Havercroft

First published on ZiMunda Farming magazine issue 1

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