AMAZONE has joined up with industry supply giant, Agravis in a joint agricultural pilot project on Controlled Row Farming (CRF).

This row-based cultivation project will focus particularly on biodiversity and includes input from precision farming technology experts at Schmotzer Hacktechnik.

The long-term field trials will start this coming sowing season 2020 and the CRF concept will see each crop cultivation take place in a fixed row.

The end-game, said Amazone, was an agro-ecological farming system consistent with a needs-based use of resources to generate reasonable yields and profits, together with the maximum contribution to biodiversity.

All crop plants will be grown at a row spacing of 50 cm in the CRF concept, with cereals sown in double rows. Depending on the crop rotation, the row can be offset by 25 cm, in order, for example, to make use of the agronomical effect of the preceding undersown crop.

Sowing will normally carried out in combination with row-oriented fertilisation. Plant protection is primarily applied by means of band application on the row and via dropleg weeding systems at later growth stages. Each pass will be carried out with high-precision track guidance via RTK-GPS and camera control.

Hoeing technology is used for mechanical weed control in combination with row-specific plant protection, targeted fertiliser application and sowing of companion plants between the rows.

These companion plants should make a positive contribution to the phytosanitary support of the main crop, as well as soil fertility and biodiversity. Depending on the crop and weather conditions, these inter-row plants will be actively managed, to ensure the crop can be harvested safely.

Two different systems will be compared in the CRF trials. One will put the emphasis on the maximum yield with limited competition from companion plants, while the second will focus on biodiversity with reduced intensity of fertiliser and plant protection measures. The two variants will be compared with two intensity levels of usual soil management.

A 10 ha test area at Amazone’s Wambergen test centre, near the main Amazone factory. There, the six-year crop rotation with cereals and maize is typical for the region, and consists of the establishment of rape and pulses as well as intensive catch crop cultivation.

The design engineers from Amazone and Schmotzer Hacktechnik will develop and test new technologies and tools in the trials, while advisers from Agravis will provide their expertise to help select the right varieties and inputs for the CRF system.

High-end digital methods of field surveying and machinery will be used to assess the crops and their yield as part of the CRF project.