Farming with maps, GPS and mobile devices.
1000s of drillings, 1000s of maps of the ground! Does this sound like oil exploration? It isn't. It's part of a major trend in agriculture called precision farming. A few weeks ago, we invited Klaus Muenchhoff (German) to talk with our team about this new technology and were amazed at the possibilities. After his presentation, my colleague Friederike Wurth got the chance to talk with Klaus personally. He explained how precision agriculture is helping him improve his bottom line while being softer on the environment.
Ten years later, Muenchhoff has multiple maps of his fields giving him exact information about the exact soil type, moisture and nutrients of the soil. The maps are based on the dates collected from drilling all over one field. Then, over GPS the data are sent to Muenchhoff's computer. All these data and maps allow him to treat each square meter of his fields individually.
His first experience with precision farming was in 2000 when he decided to create yield maps of his fields. "These first yield maps showed me that there are very, very big yield differences in my fields. And of course I know that the soil can vary hugely from one part of the field to the next. You can see that when it's dry. In some places it's still growing, in others everything is drying up and dying." So in 2001, Muenchhoff tried out a wireless nutrient sensor to give each piece of land just the right amount of fertilizer. "The next year I bought my own."
"That has really changed the way I work," says Muenchhoff. "Before anyone sets foot on a tractor, a lot of planning has already been done in the office. We send the work plan to the tractor by e-mail. It's more work up front but the results speak for themselves: We save working hours, fertilizer, machine hours, energy and lots more." With exact information about his land, Muenchhoff has also planted trees and bushes on low-yielding parcels with poor soil to preserve the cultural landscape and create a home for animals and insects. This also helps prevent wind erosion. In addition, Muenchhoff has started another business, lending precision farming equipment to other growers in the area and offering training courses.
Muenchhoff grew up on his family's farm in Derenburg, a small town in the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. But he didn't take over the farm until 1990, after Germany's two halves reunited. "I grew up in farming but did other things in between. I always wanted to farm. But it didn't work out in Western Germany. But I grabbed the chance in 1990." Since then, Muenchhoff has grown his operation from 120 to 1000 hectares, around 2500 acres.
Thanks Klaus for taking the time to share your experience and expertise with us! I hope you still have time to spend on your farm with all the requests you're getting from folks like us!