Making Every Hectare Count Blog

Welcome to the ‘Making Every Hectare Count’, SOYL’s blog. Here, members of SOYL’s expert team share regular posts to keep you up to date with the latest precision news, including new products and services, events, trials data, precision tasks currently underway out in the field and answers to common and interesting queries from growers.

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4th August 2017

Bogballe blog postWorking with KRM Bogballe spreaders

As I set up a new iSOYL for iPad variable rate system on farm earlier this week, the farmer and I came to discussing his KRM spreader and the popularity of the brand.  This led me to reflect on our relationship with KRM and Bogballe of more than 20 years.

Bogballe was one of the first companies that SOYL worked with for variable rate application.  The UK distributor Keith Rennie and Bogballe’s owner Nils Laursen could both see the potential of precision agriculture when we briefed them and were willing to work with us.

In 1996 the original SOYL-OPTI was launched.  The first variable rate controller it connected to was the LH Agro 5000, followed by the Bogballe Calibrator 2002 after we met Nils at the Smithfield Show in December 1996 and agreed to work together.  By the spring of 1997, we had a working system where the OPTI could control the 2002 unit which in turn controlled the spreader.

In the later 1990s, many farmer clients used their OPTI with a Bogballe 2002. As the Bogballe controller range developed, with the Bogballe Calibrator 2003 coming next, SOYL maintained compatibility with each. Eventually, the blue fronted controllers were replaced by the now familiar silver and black units, starting with the Bogballe Calibrator Uniq and now the Icon and Zurf.

In 2016 the tablet based iZurf was introduced, including headland and section control and a wireless monitor for the spreader. As KRM’s kit has advanced, so has SOYL technology and this unit now works with iSOYL as well as any application maps directly uploaded to it.

Bogballe controllers are easy to work with and maintain simple but effective communications protocols.  The foresight of Bogballe in variable rate helped SOYL to deliver to forward thinking farmers in the short term, but also encouraged other spreader manufacturers to consider precision applications.

Today, SOYL services are compatible with the following KRM Bogballe controllers:

·         Calibrator 2002  (must have rs232 socket)

·         Calibrator 2003

·         Calibrator Uniq

·         Calibrator Zurf

·         Calibrator Icon.

simon parrington sm

Simon Parrington

SOYL commercial director


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2nd August 2017

Why should I use yield maps?

Between the showers, combines are rolling across the country with the purpose of gathering the result of a year’s work. At the same time, many are gathering important information in the form of yield maps, but are you using your data to its full potential?

The more years of yield data you have, the more valuable that data is, but it’s never too late to start. One year of yield mapping information can provide invaluable insight into farm business performance and it isn’t just about confirming where the ‘good bits’ and ‘bad bits’ were. How did different crops or varieties perform? What were the differences between soil types or locations?  The questions we can ask of our yield data are endless.

Where to start

One of the biggest challenges around yield data has been the lack of a straightforward place to view and analyse it. MySOYL now provides growers with these functions. Regardless of your combine colour, we can import your data from one year or twenty.

After your data is imported, you can make a start in using it in combination with all your other precision crop layers such as nutrients, soil types, or previous yield data. This means you can start to ask questions of it. It is worth pointing out the obvious that yield = income!

An example

“I wonder what variation in yield there was across that wheat block?”

Yield map blog1

“How does that look with soil type?”
Yield map blog2

“And nutrients?”
Yield map blog3“Ok so this heavy soil type needs its pH keeping a careful eye on. Is it just this year or has this happened before?”
Yield map blog4
This simple example shows the level of detail and insight given by collecting and analysing yield data. To find out more about how to get the best from yours, speak to your local advisor or call 01635 204190.

 Tom Parker sm


Tom Parker

Head of products & technology

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28th July 2017

Review of the European Conference on Precision Agriculture

SOYL blog European Conference on Precision Agriculture reviewAs the head of SOYL’s technical and R&D department, one of my responsibilities is to look at the latest developments in precision agriculture research and keep an eye on the ‘next big thing’ for customers. To find out more about what’s happening in the industry and to share more about SOYL’s own work, some colleagues and I went to Edinburgh earlier this month for the 11th biennial meeting of the European Conference on Precision Agriculture.

Over 400 delegates from around the world gathered in the Scottish capital to discuss new ideas and advances in precision agriculture, both commercially and in research. SOYL was sponsoring the conference and presented three scientific papers, as well as showing the world our services in the commercial exhibition hall.

Over three days, concurrent sessions covered topics as varied as satellite applications, crop disease, precision tillage and weed management, crop sensors, irrigation and precision techniques for grassland. SOYL’s technical team was at the forefront, with agricultural development manager, David Whattoff presenting on variable depth cultivation, me on variable rate PGR benefits and SOYL Sweden’s Hans Alvemar on his grassland research.

SOYL business development manager, Rory Geldard presented at the commercial session which included discussion on ‘the low hanging fruit available for precision ag research and development’. Again the theme of data interpretation and analysis was highlighted as the area of greatest potential and there was particular interest in the MySOYL system Rory described, which acts as a data hub for SOYL customers. In the sponsors tent Rory also fielded enquiries from across the world including Mexico, Australia and China.

Keynote speakers included Rene Von schomberg, scientific officer at the European Commission. He discussed ethical research and innovation and how precision agriculture can fulfil these ethical requirements in the areas of sustainability and societal desirability to bring both environmental and economic benefits.

Matthew Smith from Microsoft Digital outlined the theme of democratisation of data with access from anywhere in the world, normally through a smartphone. ‘Big data’ is a huge area of potential in precision agriculture and farming as an industry has opportunities in its massive datasets, for example on yield, nutrition, inputs, soil and weather and information coming via new technologies such as moisture and stress sensors. Precision farming is extremely data rich and therefore is able to use data analytics to understand the patterns that control plant growth and yield to ultimately make farming more profitable. Microsoft is investing heavily in making this data available to all, which has exciting prospects for the industry.

It was a great conference in a beautiful city and a hotbed of new ideas and research that will give us all food for thought. Great feedback from the worldwide precision agriculture community also reinforced that our own products and ideas are some of the most innovative in the industry.

Simon Griffin sm



Simon Griffin

Technical manager

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18th July 2017

What should I do with straw this harvest?

As SOYL’s technical manager, I’m responsible for our crop nutrition strategy and at this time of year, many clients and colleagues ask me the same question: should I remove my straw and sell it?

Dealing with straw on the farm can be complicated. For some, it’s a valuable soil management tool or a source of income and for others, just a problem that has to be dealt with. Each option has its benefits and drawbacks.

Straw is currently selling for around £50/t, about £10/t more than last year. Recent good weather will potentially mean that straw is dry and can be baled immediately and the early start to harvest should make logistics easier, so fields will be cleared in good time for autumn drilling. This all sounds appealing, but is it the best option for your farm? Let’s take a look at the options and factors to consider.

  • Nutrients
Straw contains large amounts of nutrients, particularly P, K and Mg. The table below shows the volume that will be removed by a crop if straw is baled at harvest.



P205 kg/ha

K20 kg/ha





Winter Wheat




Nutrient content straw

yield x 0.6

yield x 4.8


A 10 tonne crop of wheat will therefore remove an additional 6 kg/ha of phosphate and 48kg/ha of potash if straw is removed. At today’s fertiliser prices, this will cost £20-£25/ha to replace as when the nutrients are removed from the soil, their value is being removed too.

These figures are based on the typical ratio of straw to grain yield which is used if the actual tonnage of straw removed is not known.  If bale tonnages per hectare are known then a different calculation method can be used. 

  • Organic matter

Incorporating straw into the soil will have a beneficial effect on soil organic matter, but the actual rise from straw incorporation is very small and levels will increase slowly. Straw incorporation also helps the “workability” of soils and can lead to a reduction in wear and tear and fuel costs of using machinery.

Straw incorporation will be beneficial if no other sources of organic material are available and organic matter levels are low at below 5%. If organic matter levels are already good or manures are available to spread then baling should be considered.

If a straw for muck agreement is an option, then the amount of P and K in any muck should be calculated as this may be more than the amount of P and K removed in the straw. Manures will also increase soil organic matter levels faster than straw incorporation and is therefore a more efficient way of improving organic matter.

  • Agronomy

StrawStraw incorporation does not show any conclusive negative effect on disease and weed populations.

However, when straw is incorporated, slug populations are likely to double. When slug pressures are high, the decision on whether to chop or bale straw may have a significant agronomic impact through slug damage and costs of control, with the estimated benefit of straw removal being around £20/ha.

Consideration should also be given to cultivation methods. Shallow tillage may leave straw at seed depth and potentially affect subsequent establishment.

  • Harvest logistics and machinery

A farmer who sells straw in the swath at £8-£15/t (c.£25-£50/ha) rather than chopping it for incorporation may expect to save £4-£5/ha from not chopping straw. A farmer who bales, carts and stores his straw will typically achieve a net return of £80-£150/ha.

The cost of any damage caused by running machinery must be taken into account. For example, consequent soil compaction could cost £55/ha to fix by sub soiling. Delays to establishment can also lead to yield loss.

The cost of baling and carting and whether this will be carried out by contractors or on farm also needs to be considered.

A combination of all these factors and fluctuations in the fertiliser and straw market will mean that each farm and year will be unique. Speak to your local advisor for guidance specific to your individual circumstances.

Simon Griffin sm


Simon Griffin

Technical manager


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14th July 2017

My first month at SOYL

Hello! I joined SOYL on 5th June 2017 as area manager for Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire and thought I’d give you some insight into the training and development that SOYL invests in new recruits like me.

I grew up on the family farm on the South Yorkshire/Nottinghamshire border and have worked in agriculture since 2006 as a soil mapping analyst, a grain buyer and later as a BASIS qualified agronomist. I’ve never been through such a comprehensive induction and training programme before and my first impressions of the company are excellent. With such a helpful, friendly team around me too, I feel as though I’ve settled in quickly and I’m excited for my future at SOYL.

My first week included a mixture of spending time at two of our main offices in Lincolnshire and Bedfordshire meeting colleagues. I also spent a day at Wansford 3D Thinking trial site and attended a SOYL workshop with some of our customers, which gave me a great insight into the new MySOYL platform.

My second week was spent at SOYL’s head office at Newbury, where the team made me feel most welcome.  I spent each day with a different team showing me the ropes, talking to me about systems and processes and checking out the warehouse. It was very worthwhile but a long week which meant my terrier, “The Little One”, was sent on holiday for a few days; although I missed her, she didn’t want to come home and leave her new spaniel friends and spent the following week sulking! Other members of my menagerie include two horses, Juno, aka “The New One”, who is quite naughty and Buster, an 18 year old ex-household cavalry horse.

Week three and four were mostly spent on joint farm visits to customers in South Lincolnshire and Norfolk, finding out more about how SOYL is already helping their businesses. I also had the opportunity to represent SOYL at Groundswell in Hertfordshire and Wickenby 3D Thinking open day in Lincolnshire, which was seriously wet! Thankfully I was in the barn quite a lot, though I went out to tour the trial plots with some customers too. The Frontier team was great, again making me most welcome and it was great to meet some customers in my area too.

It’s been a busy but wonderful introduction to the business and I look forward to meeting and working with more customers in the coming weeks. If you’re farming in the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire area and I haven’t been in touch yet, please feel free to contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Antonia Walker

Area manager, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire


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6th July 2017

2017 European Conference on Precision Agriculture

ECPANext week, members of the SOYL team will attend the 2017 European Conference on Precision Agriculture (ECPA) in Edinburgh. SOYL are regulars at the event, having attended since 1997 when it was last held in the UK, at Warwick and we’re delighted to be supporting this year’s conference as a silver sponsor.

What is the ECPA?

The ECPA is a three day event at which researchers and scientists from around the world present on their work in the field of precision agriculture. Papers cover a wide range of arable, horticultural and livestock projects. This year’s theme is ‘Innovating through research’.

SOYL’s scientific contributions

This year, members of the SOYL team are involved in three papers:

·         Simon Griffin, technical manager and Jeremy Hollis, soil scientist will be presenting research based on trials of variable rate PGRs. Satellite imagery of biomass variation in wheat fields was used as a basis to change the rate of PGR across a field and the yield benefits were compared to flat rate applications.

·         David Whattoff, agricultural development manager, is presenting a paper on creating variable depth tillage zones. Combining data from conductivity maps and a penetrometer survey, these are used together to create a three dimensional application plan that varies the depth of the cultivator in real time.

·         Hans Alvemar, CEO of SOYL Sweden is jointly presenting a paper on Controlled Traffic Farming.

Why do we support the event?

The UK leads Europe in the adoption of precision agriculture and hosting this year’s event is a great opportunity to showcase the UK’s expertise. SOYL is proud to have played a part in this success and we’re delighted to contribute to the event.

From an innovation perspective, the event is a great opportunity to network with fellow researchers and scientists. We’ll be sharing ideas with those at the forefront of cutting edge research, including big data, pasture management, disease management and crop and soil sensors. Some of these discussions may be taken further by our expert team to develop new and improved precision approaches and help growers in making every hectare count.

Since iSOYL and MySOYL are used in many countries, the event also gives us chance to meet existing international partners and potential candidates to take SOYL into new countries.

Check the blog later this month for our review of the conference.

You can find out more about the event here and follow ECPA on Twitter.

simon parrington sm


Simon Parrington

SOYL commercial director


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30th June 2017

The UK’s most popular field names

I visited a new client earlier this week and as we were recording his details, the second field on his list was named ‘Barn Field’. He noted that we probably have a lot of fields on our system by that name, which got me thinking about the names I’ve come across in the past.

Over 200,000 fields in our database provide some unique insights to help inform our advice to customers. We can also run quick searches on simple data like field name, so I spoke to one of the tech wizards back at the SOYL office who quickly did some magic and came back with the top ten:

Field name Number of fields
Big Field 
Barn Field 282
Long Field 239
Stackyard 229
Pond Field 222
Middle Field
Home Field 217
Front Field

Not really any surprises there, though I might have expected to see Barn Field come out on top. The system also told us that the largest field we work with is a huge 132 hectares!

The chart below represents the most popular names in our system; the larger the bubble, the more fields with that name.

simon parrington sm



Simon Parrington

SOYL commercial director

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27th June 2017

enews June17 trainingSummer training events

In response to feedback from customers and to complement our popular annual Winter Workshop campaign, SOYL is offering summer training events for the first time this year.

Distinctly different to the winter events, the summer training is a programme of practical, hands-on sessions with a much smaller group of growers, with 15-20 typically attending each. With a laptop provided for everyone attending, the focus is on how to use SOYL services and tools to make even smarter business decisions and what to do when help is required.

The subjects covered are:

·         Basic exploration of MySOYL, our precision farming data management platform; how to use it, what’s available and some tips and tricks

·         Cropping and how we can make the flow of information between SOYL and farmer more accurate and efficient to ultimately lead to better nutrient management

·         How and why to record field walking observations on a digital platform using the iSOYLscout app

·         Custom Applications: creating variable rate plans for any product with an easy to use interface.

The sessions are a mixture of demonstrations and do-it-yourself exercises with plenty of SOYL staff on hand to help with the practicalities and answer questions specific to your own farm business.

The sessions give growers insight into why products work the way they do as well as how to get the best from them, and of course all attendees have been very interested in what’s coming next!

Several events have already taken place in recent weeks, but there’s still time to attend; find your nearest here.

Feedback on what to cover is always gratefully received. Contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 Tom Parker sm


Tom Parker

Head of products & technology


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21st June 2017

Welcome to the Making Every Hectare Count Blog

At SOYL, we share our expertise in many ways: farmer group meetings, on farm client meetings, newsletters, annual training workshops and regular technical bulletins. The new blog is another useful method for those interested in precision crop production to find out about the latest news and keep up to date with what’s happening in the field.

It will be valuable to anyone interested in sustainable and profitable crop production and for those interested in precision agriculture product and service development.

Our posts will focus on a wide range of topics including:

·         Soil, nutrition and crop production

·         Getting the best from precision farming

·         Working at SOYL

·         Precision agriculture development

·         How we develop innovative technology like MySOYL and iSOYL

·         Lessons learned during 24 years of precision farming.

Making Every Hectare Count is a mantra that’s behind everything we do. We’re here to develop products and services that help farmers to get the very best from every hectare economically, agronomically and environmentally, and we look forward to sharing some of this with you on this page.

If there’s a topic you would like to see us write about, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your suggestions.

simon parrington sm



Simon Parrington

SOYL commercial director

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Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @SOYLprecision for regular updates on soils, nutrients, machinery and GPS.

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