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The soils place high demands on people and technology.

Jacob van den Borne, Belgium Flamen - Fendt 512, 724, 828, 930 Vario

The soils place high demands on people and technology.


Vlaamse frites is to Belgium what fish and chips is to the UK. In Part 2, Jacob van den Borne tells us more about his farm. The Dutchman produces most of his potatoes in the Belgian region of Flanders. It is the end of August, when the harvest of the early varieties begins, providing raw materials to the fries factories. With the help of his digital instruments, he can optimise the production of his golden tubers.

Aardappelen. As far as the eye can see, Aardappelen. Potatoes are the staple crop in Dutch agriculture – as the farm's name suggests. Brothers Jacob and Jan van den Borne have optimised their operations for potato production. Not always easy, as the prices for the humble spud go up and down like a rollercoaster ride. And that's precisely why it is important for Jacob van den Borne to optimise production. One of the most important instruments they use is Precision Farming.

From grain to potatoes

Grandfather Jan van den Borne founded the company in 1952 by buying a farm in Reusel. Livestock farming and grain propagation were the main sources of income. Both involved an awful lot of manual work at the time. It quickly became clear to the founder that he had to invest in mechanisation to be able to operate profitably and efficiently. As his cultivated land grew, he added other crops, including sugar beet, followed by aardappelen in 1970 – potatoes. Times changed. The farm was passed down and further diversified. The restaurant originally run by his grandfather, “De Postelsche Hofstee”, has been part of the business since the beginning of the 1980s. In the meantime, branches such as animal husbandry were abandoned so they could devote themselves to optimising their arable farming. Potato cultivation became the main crop. Mechanisation was further advanced. In 1995, the first Fendt tractor was added to the machine fleet. With the 512 model, the van den Bornes opted for by far the most produced model of the 500 series. A general-purpose weapon for the farm that was a winner even before the plough, the planter, the harvester and transport vehicles. Precision Farming was still a topic for the future for most farmers at the beginning of 2008. Agriculture 3.0? Hardly any farmer has talked about it, let alone believed in the success of digital progress. This is not the case with the van den Bornes. The Fendt 930 Vario is fitted with an automatic guidance system. Overlaps on uneven, mostly hexagonal fields have been reduced, minimising the cost of work, wear and fuel. A promising concept in which the Fendt tractors play an important role today.

Jacob van den Borne spends more time on his PC than on the Fendt. He plans every single lane that his employees then toil in the fields.

Working to centimetrelevel accuracy

Nightshades are cultivated over 500 hectares. As of March, it's all hands on deck in the 140 or so potato fields, all within a radius of 30 km around the farm. Field boundaries of newly added fields are recorded with the help of RTK to centimetre-level accuracy and exported to the field database. And vice versa: for Jacob van den Borne, it couldn't be easier to map the waylines as A-B lines on the PC then export them to the tractor. He can also use it to plan the irrigation system.

Soil moisture sensors measure moisture levels at different soil depths. If you combine the collected data with that from the weather station, you can determine the best irrigation windows.

Soils vary on the Belgian/ Dutch border, which justifies section-specific management even on the fields that average just 3 hectares in area. The cultivated fields have a rotation of 'devil's fruit' typical for this region. In other words, these are soils in which only crops such as rye, oats, barley, potatoes, sugarbeet and fodder beet can be successfully grown. This is because either the fields are too wet due to flooding or there is a lack of water and they dry out. This dilemma means that around half of the land needs rain in the summer months for a decent harvest in the autumn. The young heathland consists of fine sand, which is slightly loamy. The humus-rich topsoil is 25 to 30 cm deep. Seed bed preparation is the first step in planting the potatoes. Depending on the type of soil and intermediate fruit growth, this calls for a combination of a cultivator, rotary harrow and crumbler roller or alternatively the 6-disc plough with packer. With the help of ISOBUS, the Lemken gem can be used to adjust the working width and depth on the terminal in the Fendt Vario 724, as well as the packer. Seed potatoes are expensive. Four varieties are grown for the French fries industry. This includes both early and late varieties, as well as varieties specified by the customer. The aim is to maximise yield. With this in mind, Jacob van den Borne divides his fields into three zones with different yield potentials: lanes, dry zones and shaded zones. By adjusting the planting separation, he can prevent any loss of yield. The new Fendt 724 Vario and the 9-year-old 828 have the same software versions installed.

The only downtimes during the planting phase is when the planter has to be restocked. A-B lines, lanes and so on are planned in advance to avoid delays.

Extreme precision is required from the Varios when planting potatoes at an average speed of 7 to 8 km/h. Lanes are created to fit the 39 m working width of the plant protection sprayer. VarioDoc and VarioGuide make light work of creating the lanes, as it is fully automated. Back in the office, the manager has already programmed the job orders and sent them to the tractor over the mobile network. When one lane is created, the first and fourth hills are omitted, so 5.5% of the field might not contain any seed potatoes. No planting, no yield, no income – it's the logical order of things. The software promises a great deal of improvement in this regard. The hills next to the lanes get more sunlight, nutrients, water and minerals over the year, so the seed potatoes there have a higher yield potential. “We have to make the most of that,” explains van den Borne. Automatic SectionControl can increase the planting quantity in the two intermediate rows by 10%. Exactly the opposite is done in shaded zones. Less light means less yield per plant. So, the planting volumes are reduced proportionately to the lack of sunlight; by 10% in zones with 75% light, and by 30% in zones with only 25% light.

The tractor finds its way

“The VarioGuide Contour Assistant and its new wayline types – Contour Segments and Single Track – are a big plus for Fendt when it comes to potato planting,” explains the Dutchman. The fields are often at an angle, so it's not always easy to shape the best headland. This is much easier on the office PC than doing it there and then on the field. With this feature, there is no need to constantly find a new wayline. The tractor finds the next line on its own. This increases ease-of-use and makes the machinery even more productive by saving on working hours. And another smart Fendt feature plays an important role here: the VariotronicTI Turn Assistant. This turns the machine automatically without any effort from the driver. With the help of VariotronicTI, the implements are automatically applied and lifted with precision at the headland. Together, these functions form TI Headland – a fully automatic headland management system. When the seed potatoes are in the ground, weather stations are set up on every field. This allows the manager to control the irrigation systems as required. Up to 25 millimetres of water can fall from the wells within 12 hours like natural rain over the potatoes. This data also backs up the decision-making for fertilisation and plant protection. Again, the planning is done on the PC. With the help of VariableRateControl, fertilisers and plant protection agents are applied to specific sections. This saves costs, especially in the case of plant protection. The first spraying run usually takes place at the end of May, when the first shoots of the potato plants can be seen on the hills. More run-outs follow every week after that. From the outset, the threat of phytophthora To find out more about Jakob van den Borne's farm, watch www.Fendt.TV “WE ARE WITHIN REACH OF OUR CONTROLLED TRAFFIC FARMING AIM.” must minimised. Fungicides are used to try to prevent the fungus from settling on the potato leaves. With the right management tools, this is no problem for the Dutchman. For the past three years, the potato specialist has been using Fendt's complete Smart Farming solutions. “My aim is Controlled Traffic Farming. And I will implement this together with Fendt at the Van Den Borne Aardappelen farm in the near future,” says Jacob van den Borne with confidence.