Right Dose in the Right Place: Management “Per Square Meter” in Brazilian Crops

“Soil is the main explanatory variable of agricultural yield. Knowing it is fundamental for modern and low-carbon agriculture…”

Henrique Junqueira Franco is a partner and technical director at Cropman – Inteligência em Diagnósticos de Solos, a company specialized in soil diagnostics, with a degree in agronomy from São Paulo State University, and a Ph.D. in soil sciences from the Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture.

Henrique Junqueira Franco é sócio e diretor técnico da Cropman

Henrique Junqueira, partner at Cropman

AgriBrasilis – Why is it necessary to map the soil?

Henrique Junqueira – The soil is the main variable that can explain agricultural yields. Knowing the soil is key to modern and low-carbon agriculture. The technologies available until then, such as grid sampling, remote sensing, and yield analysis, were unable to achieve the necessary precision to a series of localized managements. The result is that, with little information about the different soils of the farms and about their transitions, farmers face an inefficiency in the use of inputs, with overdoses and underdoses, which will impact the yields obtained, not reaching the potential yields of each plot of the farms.

AgriBrasilis – How accurate are soil diagnostic practices?

Henrique Junqueira – Precision grid agriculture, used in soil diagnostics, will be more accurate the shorter the distance (grid) between soil collection points, but this distance directly impacts the cost of this diagnosis. On the other hand, by adding digital tools – such as big data, cloud computing and artificial intelligence algorithms – to traditional methodologies, we are able to add high accuracy to these diagnoses, at a competitive cost, and with a very high return: from 5x to 10x the investment.

Today it is possible for the farmer to have an in-depth knowledge of the soils on their property. Based on these diagnoses, they can make more accurate management decisions.

“Often the farmer does not know the technologies, or does not want to use them, because they see them as a cost, and not as an investment”

AgriBrasilis – How much can the adoption of precision agriculture reduce the use of fertilizers and correctives?

Henrique Junqueira – In general, we observed savings of around 30%, which is very significant, considering the participation of these inputs in the farmer’s cost structure. These savings can be achieved without any yield reduction, as it is based on high-precision diagnostics, which ensure the right dose in the right place.

AgriBrasilis – Is it possible to achieve a “per square meter” management of the crop?

Henrique Junqueira – The management per square meter of the crop is already a reality, through the technologies available to the farmers. Soil diagnostics obtained with digital tools work with more than 10,000 data points per hectare, compared to 0.33 data points per hectare from precision agriculture in grid, if a collection of 1 point for every 3 hectares is used. Therefore, it is fair to say that Digital Agriculture allows for a management per square meter.

AgriBrasilis – What is the investment required to carry out soil diagnosis?

Henrique Junqueira – In precision grid farming, prices vary greatly depending on the spacing between collection points and the analyses that will be done. Let’s say that a good, dense and complete diagnosis will cost about US$ 18 to US$ 24 per hectare. This type of diagnosis will not be capable of enabling a series of localized managements, and will have to be repeated every time the fertility analysis is updated.

Our soil diagnostics, with all the Digital tools, cost around US$ 30 per hectare, but they are complete, accurate and enable several localized management that grid agriculture does not deliver, being superior to traditional soil diagnostics. In addition, once the spatial variability of the soil is identified through our technology, it will only be necessary to update the soil fertility over the years in each soil zone (“management zones”), at a cost of US$ 8 per hectare, much lower than what is practiced in precision grid agriculture.

AgriBrasilis – Why do most farmers still apply inputs without mapping their land for variation? Is the adoption of precision agriculture practices expected to accelerate in the coming years?

Henrique Junqueira – There are multiple factors, ranging from conservatism to the excess of new technologies that promised too much and delivered too little. A popularization process is required, which takes time. But several factors show us that we should have an acceleration in the adoption of precision agriculture, starting with the generational transition that is already underway, with farmers more familiar with the digital factor. There is also a need to harvest more using less inputs, both from an environmental and, above all, financial point of view, ensuring more sustainable financial margins.

AgriBrasilis – Soil assessment alone is not enough to carry out precision agriculture. What other practices and technologies should be adopted?

Henrique Junqueira – It is necessary to move from the diagnosis to execution. Today, machinery already has the necessary technologies to perform precision agriculture, and the adoption of these machines and technologies will be increasingly necessary to obtain the desired management per square meter, with the right dose and in the right place. Often the farmer does not know the technologies, or does not want to use them, because they see them as a cost, and not as an investment.



Conservation and Quality of Soils in Brazil