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Nitrates in water and costs reduced by new farming technology

Nitrates in water and costs reduced by new farming technology

Friday 28 October 2022

Nitrates in water and costs reduced by new farming technology

Friday 28 October 2022

The island’s largest grower of the Jersey Royal has said it has saved £300,000 and reduced the amount of fertiliser it needs by working with the manufacturer of one of its key pieces of equipment to tailor it to the island.

By doing so, the Jersey Royal Company says it has reduced the amount of nitrates flowing off its fields into water supplies by at least 10 mg per litre.

To do so, the company worked with Stocks AG, a Cambridgeshire-based company which makes farm machinery, including seeders and applicators.

In 2016, having discovered that Jersey’s drinking water contained more than 50 mg / litre of nitrogen, theEnvironment Minister Steve Luce published a five-year Water Management Plan. 

Delivering the plan relied heavily on the efforts of the newly formed Action for Cleaner Water group, which brought together the Government, Jersey Water and the farming community.

Jersey Royal Company’s Business Unit Director, Mike Renouard, who sat on the group, tasked his engineering manager, Ricky Gallon, to find a way to reduce the amount of fertiliser the company was using, and a way of applying fertiliser in a more targeted way.

Before 2016, like most potato growers, the Jersey Royal Company used a spreader to apply fertiliser to its fields before hand-planting. Ideally, the company wanted to place the fertiliser directly into the row underneath the tubers. 

Mr Gallon said: “Having spent considerable time looking at what was available to us, I knew we needed something different to what was commonly used on the mainland. We needed something that would suit the unique nature of Jersey’s farmland.”

He tasked Stocks AG with modifying its gravity-fed applicator ‘Rotor Meter’, which the Jersey Royal Company already used, to better suit the island.

The Jersey Royal Company required higher output rates so Stocks AG developed a way to mount and control an extra hopper on tractors.

Rotor Meter Jersey Royal Potato.jpeg

Pictured: The Jersey Royal Company worked with Stocks AG to modify the latter's applicator to Jersey's small fields.

First used in 2016, the specially adapted machine resulted in a 15% reduction in fertiliser – a fall that is crucial now with fertiliser prices soaring following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The company has since bought more of the modified applicator and now has 24. 

Since 2020, it has also fitted a new system to control and maintain pre-set application rates, which has reduced the amount of fertiliser further.

Mr Gallon said: “As part of the Government’s water management plan, each of our fields is graded red, amber or green for the presence of nitrates

“We farm 1,600 fields, with an average area of just two acres. Each field’s nitrogen grading is stored in the cloud, and the driver accesses this remotely via a tablet or phone. 

“Then with just a few selections on the touchscreen, they’ve set the i-CON system to deliver the right application rate to suit their location. We save so much time by having a touchscreen and access to remote information. It’s a fantastic system for us and makes the Rotor Meter so easy to use.”

David Goodall of Stocks AG said: “With fertiliser prices rising rapidly in 2022, reducing input costs has become a priority for all farmers, not just The Jersey Royal Company.

“Running in parallel with cost savings is a desire to increase precision while at the same time looking after the land.

“The Jersey Royal Company wanted to see its fertiliser working at the point of sowing and not running off the surface during rainfall.

“We used our engineering experience to develop a solution that achieves both objectives. 

“It’s great to know that the water quality in Jersey has improved and that The Jersey Royal Company has managed to save over £300,000 since using the Rotor Meter in this unusual but effective way.”

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