A comprehensive online farming tool will provide land managers with the information they need to deliver environmental benefits and improve crop production.

The BASF Group’s xarvio Field Manager app has been enhanced with functions from the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology’s web-based Environmental Planner (E-Planner) tool.

Field Manager, which is used by 60,000 farmers in 18 countries, shows the long-term yield potential of field areas through its ‘Power Zones’ maps, based on satellite and historic data. Meanwhile, E-Planner analyses environmental datasets including soils, nearby habitats, slope and shading to assess the suitability of areas of land, at a resolution of five metres, for various environmental management options. These are: sowing flower-rich pollinator habitats and winter bird food, creating woodland, restoring wet grassland and protecting water courses from pollution.

The combined features mean the two sets of maps can be overlaid, so Field Manager users can identify less productive areas of their land and also which environmental option would work best where. Farmers can use this information to allocate field management zones.

“Integrating the E-Planner tool means growers will have, at their fingertips, the information they need to optimise crop production, biodiversity and deliver environmental benefits,” says Nicholas Corker, Innovation Manager at UKCEH.

Mike Green, Sustainability Manager for BASF, adds: “Agricultural sciences and environmental sciences have never been incompatible, but too often have been separate schools of thought. This project helps unify thinking and brings synergy to crop production and environmental management.”

The E-Planner, which provides maps for all two million fields across Great Britain, is one of the practical digital tools being developed as part of the Achieving Sustainable Agricultural Systems (ASSIST) project.

Professor Richard Pywell of UKCEH, programme manager of ASSIST, explains the enhanced Field Manager tool would help increase the efficiency and sustainability of food production, while delivering multiple benefits to the environment and biodiversity. “The E-Planner has been rigorously tested in the field, and we’re delighted to be able to bring its functionality to xarvio. The combination provides a holistic farming tool,” he says.

Further information
ASSIST is a six-year £12 million research programme in partnership between UKCEH, Rothamsted Research and the British Geological Survey. It is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), which are part of UK Research and Innovation.

The development of the E-Planner comes ahead of the introduction of Defra’s Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme. Under a principle of 'public money for public goods’, farmers will be expected to deliver an increasing range of environmental benefits, as well as producing food, under the new subsidy schemes that will replace the Common Agriculture Policy in England following the UK’s departure from the EU