Precision FarmingMaking the Elec­tronic Eye work in the Field

Farms are getting bigger. There­fore, when it comes to weed control, an “elec­tronic eye” in the field can be very useful. To ensure a new product works reli­ably right from the begin­ning, exten­sive tests are carried out before the launch. Customer Damien Menuel from North Eastern France tested John Deere’s See & Spray Select system for a second season in spring 2023.

It is a warm and sunny day in late spring. Not all the fields have a closed crop cover yet. So, the white chalky soils around the village of Somsois in Cham­pagne reflect the sunlight so strongly that the eyes start to blink.

In this inten­sively farmed region, Damien Menuel manages an 860ha arable farm together with his uncle and cous-in. 65 to 70% of his farm­land consists of light, calcareous, almost white soils. To achieve high yields, they must be fertilised prop­erly. The remaining fields are located on drained, clayey loam soils.

Mr Menuel grows wheat and barley on more than half of his land. The remaining fields are mainly used for row crops like rape, sunflowers, sugar beet and pota­toes, as well as legumes. Due to the hilly terrain and asso­ci­ated erosion prob­lems, he has been using min-till prac­tices for 15 years and focuses heavily on effec­tive weed control.

Damien Menuel main­tains a state-of-the-art fleet of farming equip­ment.

High Affinity to Tech­nical Solu­tions

Damien is very tech-savvy and main­tains a modern fleet of machinery. His five main trac­tors, three large 8020 and 8R Series trac­tors and two John Deere 6R trac­tors are connected to the John Deere Oper­a­tion Centre via JDLink. The farmer has installed the Oper­a­tion Centre app on his smart­phone.

This way, he knows where his machines are and what they are doing at any given time. His seed drills, fertiliser spreaders and sprayers are equipped with ISO-BUS and section control. So far, he has mainly been using preci­sion farming tech­niques for fertiliser appli­ca­tion, using bio-mass maps that are recorded and gener­ated by satel­lites.

Satel­lites cannot detect weeds from space. See & Spray is like an elec­tronic eye in the field.

Damien Menuel

Damien has been collab­o­rating with John Deere for years. This year, for example, he is testing a devel­op­ment to improve data exchange between BASF’s xarvio system and the John Deere Oper­a­tion Cen-tre. “Previ­ously I had to use a USB stick to transfer the prescrip­tion map from xarvio to the tractor, but today I can transfer the data directly from xarvio via my John Deere Oper­a­tions Centre to my tractor.”

The Elec­tronic Eye In The Field

In autumn 2022, together with John Deere, he began to use the See & Spray system for weed control with glyphosate. “Today, a farmer can no longer know the char­ac­ter­is­tics of all fields, and satel­lites cannot detect weeds from space. See & Spray, on the other hand, is like an ‘elec­tronic eye’ in the field. Last autumn we had a very good expe­ri­ence with the ‘green on brown detec­tion’ and we saved about 30% on herbi­cide costs.”

This spring, Damien tested See & Spray Select with regular herbi­cides in crops that had already emerged. With the new tech­nology, See & Spray Select can iden­tify rows in crops like rape, sugar beet, sunflowers, maize, or pota­toes, and detect weeds in between the rows.

As weeds are often grouped closely together, See & Spray Select applies herbi­cides to weeds standing within a row.

A spray nozzle is only released for spraying when the ‘elec­tronic eye’ detects a weed in the space between the rows. Be-cause weeds are often grouped closely together, and the spray is usually applied to the row blanked out for weed detec­tion, it also hits the weeds within the row. During the tests, Damien closely collab­o­rated with the tech­ni­cians and engi­neers from the John Deere Sprayer facto­ries in Horst (the Nether­lands) and Des Moines (US). Their focus was to develop and opti­mise the soft­ware of See & Spray Select under real life field condi­tions in different crops, while reducing the amount of herbi­cide used to an accept­able minimum.

With See & Spray Select we achieve the same weed control results as with full broad­cast appli­ca­tion.

Stijn Kroonen

Because of the farm’s reduced tillage approach, they had to deal with some bigger weeds with strong roots, which had survived the tillage process. This is where See & Spray Select reveals its full poten tial. It opens the nozzles and sprays the full dosage required to kill the weeds. But as soon as there are no weeds, the system stops spraying. The results were very satis­fying. “Throughout our field testing we found the weed control results of See & Spray Select were equiv­a­lent to a ‘whole field’ spraying approach,” says Stijn Kroonen, repre­sen­ta­tive of the John Deere sprayer factory in Horst. “The farmer needs less herbi­cides. They save on herbi­cide costs and preserve the envi­ron­ment at the same time.”