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Animal waste, auto steer, and DSS — a French farmer's combat against the crazy fertilizer price

Dec 10/2021

Julien’s team. 

From left to right: Rémi : Salesman and Fitter; Huguette : Accountant and Secretary; Laure : Secretary and Marketing; Joël : Mechanics and Machinist; Julien : Manager, Salesman and sometimes Fitter. 

 

"Today, we're going to do more with animal waste, but it's still very difficult to do without synthetic fertilizers," said Julien, FJD French dealer and a fifth-generation farmer when asked what his solution was to the skyrocketing fertilizer price. 

Due to the rising demand in the post-pandemic era, low inventory, and the tight supply, the price of natural gas, a key input for nitrogen-based fertilizers, has risen sharply according to a report by France24 in October.

“Last year, the fertilizer was priced at 170 euros per ton, but this year, it is over 600. It’s booming here. But as a consequence, the cereal price also goes up, but not as dramatically as the fertilizer price. To utilize fertilizers in a well-informed way, we use Decision Support System to analyze the soil and enrich it with the right amount of fertilizers. So each plant can absorb what it needs in a precise way.” 

Conservation farming also reduces the use of fertilizers. By minimum disturbance of the soil and the maintenance of cover crops, farmers can have greater biological activity, which decomposes the previous crops and releases the nitrogen stored in the plants back to the soil. According to Julien, more and more French farmers are adopting this farming practice. Some of them have been practicing it for the last twenty-five years. Throughout the year, the field will have a cover crop on top and farmers will seed directly through the remains of the cover or between plants. 

“That's the moment you see the value of tractor guidance because sometimes it's difficult to judge where the tractor is going if you're driving without the guidance system," further explained Julien. “In some areas, farmers seed directly after the combine. They need the auto steer because the soil is not tilled and they don’t know where they are going.” 

Julien’s family farm: Winter wheat

COP26 drew to a close on Nov. 12th. It aimed to unite the world to tackle climate change and resulted in over 195 countries making commitments to keep the average temperature change below 2℃ and as close to 1.5℃ as possible. Agriculture contributes a significant share of greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change — 17% directly through agricultural activities and an additional 7-14% through changes in land use. It’s the source of the problem, but also part of the solution, according to OECD.org. 

“I think farmers today are going to change all practices. For example, my grandfather was more of a disc user than us today. We also use herbicides depending on the situation. If the weeds do not threaten the crops, we don’t intervene. I think today farmers are moving in a good direction, which is more friendly to the climate. We need to work with nature. It’s necessary for us to save nature for our children and the generations to come. We put food on people’s plates, but sometimes city dwellers and people who are not familiar with farming do not see our efforts. I can tell you that French farmers are doing everything they can to curb climate change.” 

Photo credit: Julien

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