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Optimising nutrient use in the fields

Promotion of resource efficiency and carbon sequestration in field farming are at the heart of the Agrofood Ecosystem® activities. In the summer 2020, Kariniemen pilot farms used the precise fertilisation technology to optimise the efficiency of nutrient use in the fields.

HKScan is targeting a carbon-neutral food chain by the end of 2040. To achieve this goal, we work together with partners and contract farmers.

Split fertilization

In the summer 2020, Kariniemen pilot farms were provided with Yara's new fertilisation technology and expert instructions. On each farm, two wheat blocks were chosen for precise fertilisation. Based on the fertility analysis, needs for cattle manure application and fertilisers already available on the farm, the amounts and types of fertilisers were planned for the summer. It was decided that fertilisation would be split so that in connection of sowing, 2/3 of nitrogen and the required amount of phosphorus and potassium were applied. The idea was to apply the rest of the nitrogen based on the need of the crop during the growing season.

To determine additional fertilisation needs, minimum and maximum plots were made on the pilot blocks using a fertiliser control of the seed drill.

On some of the farms, local rains disturbed the sowing work. However, all the blocks seemed vibrant in the sprouting phase. The rains stopped after the spring, and just when water was most needed, there were only some local showers. The majority of the blocks on the pilot farms suffered from severe drought.

Nitrogen uptake measured at crop visits

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In the last weeks of June, Yara and HKcan made farm visits to measure the crops. Testers used Yara Handheld N-Sensor, which measured nitrogen uptake in the minimum and maximum plots and in the control plot. The measures showed clearly that the control plot had not been able to use all the nitrogen applied in connection with sowing, at least in the driest plots. In many cases, there was no need for additional fertilisation.

In the last weeks of June, Yara and HKcan made farm visits to measure the crops. Testers used Yara Handheld N-Sensor, which measured nitrogen uptake in the minimum and maximum plots and in the control plot. The measures showed clearly that the control plot had not been able to use all the nitrogen applied in connection with sowing, at least on the driest plots. In many cases, there was no need for additional fertilisation. Split fertilisation worked well both economically and in terms of the carbon footprint.

At the same visit, Megalab crop samples were taken to determine other possible nutrient deficiencies. Sulphur deficiency, in particular, was common. The grain growth speed was also noteworthy. Most of the plots were already at the flag leaf stage or a little further at the end of June.

Information on additional fertilization from the satellite service

The pilot farms were also provided with Yara’s Atfarm satellite service that allowed the farmers to observe the growth condition of plots and the need for additional fertilisation.

Savings through additional fertilizations

The growing season was challenging: the average yield was only 3,500 kg/ha, ranging from less than 2,000 kg/ha to nearly 6,000 kg/ha. The average protein level was 15%. However, the nutrient use efficiency was at a fairly good level because additional fertilisation was not necessary.

The co-operation will continue next summer. New HKScan’s contract farms and production sectors from Finland and Sweden will be involved.