Researchers develop tool help farmers make the most of their land
A professor at the Natural Resources Institute of Finland is developing a tool to help farmers make the best choices for their land.
Research Professor Pirjo Peltonen-Sainio is working on PeltoOptimi, a piece of tech aimed at helping farmers assess their land and make decisions to reach the best possible yield whilst remaining sustainable.
Professor Peltonen-Sainio hopes that PeltoOptimi can reconcile crop production with cultivated grasslands and afforestation, the EU-favoured practice of turning low-yield farm land into forest.
The tool divides fields into three categories based on the land parcel data. Parcels to be extensified often suffer from an unbalanced rotation, compacted soil or low pH, which leads to low yield. They need actions that will restore their agronomic traits.
Characteristics of a poor parcel include low production potential, a small surface area and an unfavourable location. If the soil is peat, PeltoOptimi suggests afforestation of the parcels. Parcels of land where the production is to be intensified are the most valuable parcels of a farm.
Professor Peltonen-Sainio said: “At present, parcels with a high yield suffer from shortage because investments are made also in poor parcels. If a farm invests in the high-yield parcels, its overall production level will not decrease even if some lands are removed from the scope of improved production”,
In Finland 13–15 per cent of the arable area is still subjected to lack of rotation, i.e. cultivation of the same cereal species four years out of every five.
“These parcels require varied rotation that will secure their production potential. Such fields are extremely important, and biodiversity will also benefit from varied crop rotation”, Peltonen-Sainio points out.
PeltoOptimi takes the production potential of the farm, the environment and changing conditions into account. If the need for grass fodder decreases, the tool calculates which parcels should be switched to annual crops. The farmer can also edit the parcel data.
The tool will be tested at pilot farms, and its first parts will be published in September.
Researchers and specialists working in the Natural Resources Institute of Finland (Luke) aim to provide new solutions towards the sustainable development of the Finnish bioeconomy and the promotion of new biobased businesses.