NOWADAYS precision farming is no longer considered as a distant and futuristic world of modern robotics and technology, it’s already here and proving an essential business and management tool for many farmers.
Moray coast farmer, Iain Green, who farms in partnership with his father, Jimmy and mother, Nan, at Corskie, Garmouth, near Elgin, are well-known known for a noted Simmental herd, but their arable business is now under scrutiny as the family has just recently been selected as one of the nine monitor farms in the country, especially its use of precision farming techniques.
But as well as calving more than 500 head each year, running a commercial flock of 600 ewes, as well as having 380 indoor sows, they run a large-scale arable enterprise over three different units, compromising of 1736 acres, which sees winter barley, spring barley – for malting, winter wheat and spring oats grown.
Being fortunate to be working soil which ranges from light sandy to clay loam – allowing labour and machinery to be spread over a number acres – the first method of precision farming was introduced to the business almost eight years ago and it’s clear to see that the advanced technology is very much a key component in the family’s business.

The Scottish Farmer:
“All land is GPS soil sampled, and not only are artificial fertiliser and lime applied through variable rate, we also apply the manure and slurry by using our own soil maps”.
“Our first move into precision farming was yield mapping using the combine. This then allowed us to develop field maps where we were able to see the poorer yielding parts in fields and were able to investigate why, as well as then knowing what we could apply to make them better”, said Iain.
Aside from making yields more uniform across fields, auto steer has been the biggest benefit when mapping through the combine, with Iain pointing out that driver fatigue is reduced and it allows the operator to sit back and concentrate on the operation that is going on.
But, it wasn’t guidance that was the selling point for the Greens. “Investing in GPS technology wasn’t to help in terms of guidance as I can’t really justify as to how satellite systems would pay for only that. It’s an added luxury having the guidance but we initially bought the system to help monitor yields or application rates of lime and potash.”

The Scottish Farmer:
With field mapping used across the arable units, another new technique was matching it all up to GPS section shut-off on the sprayer. This reduces overlapping with the sprayer which is not only used to apply chemicals but also liquid nitrogen, therefore making the operation more efficient.
Just recently, the business has ordered a new Agrifac Condor sprayer which has a 30 section shut-off GPS system which should give more accuracy on headlands and corners.
Granulated fertiliser is spread efficiently too, with an Isobus control system allowing sections to be shut off so that spreading width is limited when at corners in the fields and so that excess fertiliser isn’t applied or overlapped. The spreader is also used to apply variable rate potash, resulting in more even yields and better nutrient targetting.

The Scottish Farmer:
Previously, when sowing with his 6m Lemken drill, Iain stated that areas of fields, particularly headlands, were seeing double applications, wasting considerable amounts of seed. But now with the use of GPS, the drill can switch off and on at headlands, which is a major saving on seed cost and has had the added benefit of reducing lodging in crops. By next spring, the system should be capable of applying a variable rate seed, which should add further cost savings.
Corskie uses an RTK system (real time kinetics) for the most precise guidance, giving an accuracy of +/- 2cm. The base station, which is shared with machinery dealership, Ravenhill, is situated at their Elgin branch which sends out correction signals via radio waves to the receiver on the vehicle. In this case, three repeaters are positioned at the three arable units – Corskie, West Mains and Pluscarden – where the team can be told where to position the tractor.
But it’s not just the latest state-of-the-art guidance on his tractor stable, which includes a new 400hp Fendt tractor or the yield mapping from the combine that’s contributed to the efficiency of the arable enterprise, Iain’s purchase of a drone which was intended as a hobby, has proved useful. “I put the drone over a field of spring barley and it was unbelievable as to how clear you could see the variations in the crop,” he said, stating that it highlighted manganese deficiencies within the field.
Next year, he hopes to use the recent concept of controlled traffic farming to boost yields, avoid compaction and cut fuel costs, with all spring work done on the same tramlines. “We hope to transpose drilling lines from the Fendt onto the sprayer, as well as onto the tractors which are used for rolling, meaning we are on 100% on the same tramline during each job.”

The Scottish Farmer:
With Iain being impressed by the plus points which GPS has brought to his farming system, he added: “I don’t think the days are very far away that you’ll be able to apply agro-chemicals through a spot system, rather than spraying the entire field. It will also be more environmental friendly, which is a big factor nowadays.”
Farming on such a large-scale and having a lot of arable land to work and manage, Iain added: “I couldn’t run each enterprise without the dedicated staff here at Corskie. I try to make sure they are really involved and a part of day-to-day decision making.”
“Becoming a monitor farm is something which is really in aid to not only help myself and the staff but to give my eldest daughters, Laura and Jemma, some ideas and opportunities gleaned from other farmers. I found the previous Morayshire monitor farm very beneficial and I picked up a lot of the points from there which are now used here today.”
“We are much more efficient now by being able to save both man hours and fuel,” he added.