In the grocery store, people tend to interpret organic produce to be the clean and safe option, close to nature. But what is your first thought about organic farming when it comes to farm practices? Is it your home garden where you grow your vegetables and herbs, or a somewhat old-fashioned family farm managed maybe without using modern technology? Or a large enterprise farm operated with high-tech machinery and smart farming solutions? Does it exist smart organic farming?
Although our first thoughts about organic farming may not be the latest high-tech machinery familiar from global shows, the new advancements in technology may actually suit organic farming purposes very well. Let us consider some aspects.
“Around Europe, most farms have had animals or some sort of animal production at a certain point of development. In some cases, this also has to do with farm size; e.g. in Finland most farms are so called family farms run by one family. This kind of farm size and management form an excellent basis for organic crop production based on the manure produced by the animals on the farm”, says Mikko Hakojärvi, principal designer of crop production services at Mtech. In such cases, side products of animal production form an important basis for the nutrition of crops for food or feed. Recent developments in fertiliser products make this possible also on farms with no animal production at all.
The application practices are also different whether you use manure or fertiliser products.
“For instance, the ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus is often such that the crop nitrogen requirement cannot be fulfilled without exceeding phosphorus limits, especially in the case of natural manure. For this reason, it may be necessary to supplement crop nutrition with other products that often must be applied separately. This kind of double application makes it a system that almost asks for improvements in management practices,” Hakojärvi says.
Smart farming meets organic farming
If organic fertiliser or manure is applied in the beginning of the growing season, the nutrients of this application are released over a certain period. This provides an excellent opportunity to see how the growing conditions develop during the early season, and provides an additional opportunity to adjust later dosage according to prevailing weather. This is the point where high-tech machinery meets organic farming practices and, on the other hand, supports the existing conventions with a new twist.
Smart farming capabilities in machinery are often related to in-season treatments, and can thus provide new insights into organic farming practices.
“Considering other aspects of organic farming, apart from fertilisation, there may be even more possibilities. For instance, weed treatments are often mechanical and in some cases can be coupled with fertiliser application or in-season sowing, for instance,” Hakojärvi says. The possibilities naturally depend on the farm and the farmer but perhaps the most essential thing is to start from something. Something that is likely the most feasible step for the farm or the easiest farm practice to modify. For instance, one can take advantage of modern farm management software and ISOBUS compatible farm machinery during the spring field works as was done in this example (video below]. To make this example successful, co-operation is needed between all links along the technology chain and we at Mtech are happy to help our customers to achieve the ultimate goal.
Mtech takes part in Nefertiti project with ProAgria Etelä-Pohjanmaa.