Maize and beans in the first trial plots in 2020 – the grass strip for walking around the field is already in place.

Amazone, Agravis Raiffeisen AG and Schmotzer Hacktechnik have started a new long-term field trial looking at controlled row farming (CRF), a completely new arable farming system in which each crop cultivation measure takes place in relation to a fixed row.

The vision of the CRF agro-ecological farming system consists in the needs-based use of resources to generate reasonable yields and profits together with the maximum contribution to biodiversity. The aim is to actively promote biodiversity and achieve sustainable agricultural returns at the same time. Both goals should not only be met, but ideally also support each other.

An illustration of cereals drilled in a double row with a companion crop.

All crop plants are grown at a row spacing of 50cm in the CRF concept, whereby cereals are sown in double rows. Depending on the crop rotation, the row can be offset by 25cm in order, for example, to make use of the agronomical effect of the preceding undersown crop. Sowing is normally carried out in combination with row-oriented fertiliser application. Plant protection is primarily applied row-specifically by means of band application on the row and via dropleg systems at later growth stages. Each pass is always 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 – without direct contact with fertiliser and plant protection agents – 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 companion plants are actively managed, in order to ensure the crop is harvested.

The trials area is located in the vicinity of Amazone’s base near Osnabrück.

Two different intensities will be compared in the CRF trials: one variant will put the emphasis on the maximum yield with limited competition from companion plants. The other will focus on biodiversity with reduced intensity of fertiliser and plant protection measures. The two CRF variants will be compared with two intensity levels of usual soil management.

The 10ha test area at Amazone’s Wambergen test centre is located in the direct vicinity of the main Amazone factory in Hasbergen-Gaste. A six-year crop rotation with cereals and maize is typical for the region. It consists of the establishment of oilseed rape and pulses as well as intensive catch crop cultivation in accordance with the principles of sustainability. A good basis for an intense exchange of experience with the practitioners will be established with the simultaneous cultivation of four crops in four variants on one area.

The agricultural experts and design engineers at Amazone and Schmotzer Hacktechnik will develop and test new technologies and tools in the trials. The arable farming advisers at Agravis will provide their expertise to help select the right varieties and inputs for the CRF system. The experts at Agravis Digital GmbH and Agravis Technik will also provide support in the selection of new methods and technologies. It goes without saying that the utilisation and testing of a variety of digital methods from field surveying and the use of machinery to assessment of the crops and evaluation of the yields is part of the CRF project.

Further information is available at: www.controlled-row-farming.com.