Precision Agriculture in Poland
Stanislaw Samborski, Warsaw University of Life Sciences
The total agricultural land area in Poland in 2017 was 14.6 million ha, while the total sown area was 10.8 million ha. Cereals consisted of 70.7% of the sown area. The total number of farms, 1.4 million, is decreasing but is still one of the highest in Europe. Farms of 50 and more hectares account for of only 2.5% of the total number of farms, but cover about 31% of the agricultural land area. The average agricultural land area per farm is varies greatly depending on the region of Poland, the smallest in the southeastern part reaching only 4.1 ha in Małopolskie Voivodship and the highest, 30.8 ha, in the Zachodniopomorskie Voivodship (northwestern Poland). Much bigger farms are usually located in the northern and northwestern part of Poland are characterized by more intensive agricultural production than those located in southeastern Poland. That range of farm size helps explain why Polish farms differ in terms of precision agriculture (PA) adoption. Due to glaciation, fields are often characterized by high spatial variability of topography and soil properties, which increases the potential for adoption of PA solutions. Environmental conditions (growing season, annual rainfall, soil quality) result in a yield potential is about 30-40% lower in Poland than in Western European countries.
The current PA situation is:
- the number one PA tool used, due to its most rapid pay back, is Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) autosteer and lightbars,
- auto section control of spreaders, sprayers and planters are being used more often even on medium size farms due its simplicity in use and savings on agricultural inputs. On irregularly shaped fields and fields where tramlines are not established these savings are estimated by the farmers as 5-15%.
- yield mapping is used mostly for grains and winter rape. The total number of combines equipped with a yield mapping system is estimated to be a few hundred. There is one potato harvester with yield mapping,
- the quality of yield mapping is quiet often limited by the lack of proper calibration of the system. Moreover, yield data due to its information-intensive nature and lack of proper processing are not often used for decision-making,
- there is one combine with a grain protein sensor used for research purposes,
- soil sampling together with a creation of soil fertility maps has been offered by PA companies and crop consultants for about 15 years,
- variable rate application of potassium, phosphorus and lime fertilizers is used on big and very big farms, mostly based on grid soil sampling,
- a few companies offer soil electro-conductivity mapping to do soil sampling by management zones, but the within field soil electro-conductivity patterns are usually not verified even by soil texture or other soil characteristics determination,
- small and very small farms very often do not do any soil sampling,
- a few companies started to offer processing of satellite images via website applications to estimate biomass production and yield potential, and to produce maps, mostly for variable application of nitrogen,
- the total number of active optical sensors used for variable application of nitrogen in cereals is estimated to be several dozen including all the makes offered worldwide,
- variable rate application of pesticides and variable rate seeding is estimated to be used only on a few to dozen farms,
- the biggest farms use software based on GNSS technology to improve work efficiency of farm tractors and machinery,
- PA is taught at a few universities and recently also in technical, agricultural secondary schools.