Tag: Services

Ruma, Vojvodina, Serbia. Credits: Ugljesa Trkulja

How healthy are your growing crops? APOLLO can help you to find out

Growing healthy plants is a top priority for every farmer and agricultural consultant, and this means keeping a constant eye on seedling health to spot problems as early as possible. Even on smaller farms, this is no easy task – and it becomes increasingly challenging over larger areas.

Farmers need to perform regular checks on the health of their growing crops. Monitoring plant growth and health during the biological cycle provides important insights on crop threats (such as diseases, nutrient deficiencies or pests) and guides the farmer on where action is required.
So, other than personally surveying the field, what options does a farmer have for keeping watch over crops? A number of technological advancements are available to help farmers monitor their crops easily and with good precision.
One involves flying planes (or, more recently, drones) over the crops and collecting information using remote sensing instruments, such as hyperspectral cameras. Another way is to install measuring devices in-situ. But although these options can provide insights with good precision both in terms of location and status, they are usually costly and time consuming and – especially in the case of field surveys might be acquired too late.

Early information on plant health is important as it can help farmers make better decisions in dealing with potential threats, and in scheduling agricultural operations (e.g. fertilization, spraying, harvest), based on their field’s needs also at sub-parcel level.

How APOLLO can help farmers and agricultural consultants to make more informed decisions?

APOLLO Crop Growth Monitoring Service provides farmers with daily updates on their crop status from emergence through to harvest, generating early alerts in case of infestations and nutrient deficiencies.

The service can enable farmers to have early estimations of their crops’ status and make better decisions as a result. The service is based on crop models, and acquires valuable information on crop status during the whole agricultural season at both parcel and sub-parcel level.

Taking advantage of free and open satellite data from EU’s Copernicus program, APOLLO is providing advice based on highly accurate data from smaller to larger fields. The APOLLO Crop Growth Monitoring service is directly monitors crop condition by analysing Earth Observation based agricultural parameters such as Vegetation Indices (e.g. NDVI, SAVI, EVI) and biophysical characteristics (e.g. LAI, chlorophyll content, biomass). All this complex data is transformed into easily interpretable information for all farmers and consultants. The service is capable of monitoring the growth of arable crops as well as orchards and vineyards.

If you want to have a free trial of the service you can subscribe here.

A day in the life of an agricultural consultant, and how APOLLO can improve it

Agricultural Consultants – Greece
Georgios Savvidis is an agricultural consultant from Pella in Northern Greece. He is one of three consultants from the area taking part in the APOLLO project in the hopes of testing the services on their wheat and cotton fields. We asked him about the challenges he faces day-to-day and what role the APOLLO app could play as part of his toolkit.

Could you describe an average day in the life of an agricultural consultant?

Agricultural consultants are generally trained agronomists who provide advisory services to farmers, own or work in agricultural supply shops. An ordinary day includes field visits, discussions with farmers about crop problems and recommendations on how to deal with them. Within the Agricultural Cooperative of Pella, we have been implementing the Integrated Management System for peaches several years now, so we are addressing cultivation problems with a more holistic and environmentally friendly approach.

Credits: Giorgos SavvidisWhat kinds of problems do you encounter in the field? Are there one or two that particularly stand out, in your region?

Most problems caused by biotic factors are successfully dealt with on an annual basis. There are some exceptions through, such as the outbreak of Taphrina (a plant fungus which causes leaf curling in peach cultivations) which has affected crops in the area over the last two years. The biggest issue we have had to tackle in recent years has been the adverse weather conditions, which have crippled the production of tree crops. As far as arable crops are concerned, we had a big problem with cotton bollworm (Heliothis armigera), a few years ago, but we were able to neutralise the threat.

What tools do you currently use to address them? How do you expect APOLLO to improve them?

The tools we use include:

  • Agricultural alerts for our region provided by the Ministry of Agricultural Development. They are open to all, through the Ministry’s website and other agricultural websites,
  • Observation on the field with regular visits, which is often very time-consuming.

The way we tackle serious problems like disease or pests is by trying to suppress their outbreak and prevent further spread. The downside of this method is that by the time we intervene, the damage is already done. With APOLLO, we hope to prevent outbreaks in the first place, and to intervene in a timely and effective manner whilst they are still small enough to control. An additional bonus would be the time saved by not always having to be physically present to check on the crops in the field.

“The potential to use satellites in support of agriculture has opened up new horizons that are constantly expanding.”

Credits: Giorgos SavvidisWhat do you think the most useful advance in farming has been in the last few years?

The potential to use satellites in support of agriculture has opened up new horizons that are constantly expanding. APOLLO is a prime example of the kind of application which such technologies are making possible.
Can you think of any tools that contemporary agricultural consultants must employ in order to stay competitive? How do they differ from those that you used in your earliest days as a consultant?
An agricultural consultant’s competitiveness depends on firstly, effectively identifying emerging crop problems and, secondly, intervening in a timely manner. Therefore, any tool which improves these abilities is desirable, as it allows the consultant to “buy some time” and work out how the problem should be targeted for best results.
There are several tools like this on the market at the moment – and APOLLO will soon join them – but this was not always the case. in the past, a consultant had to search for crop problems in person, and work out the nature of the problem and its location in the field without any scientific and/or technological help.

Do agricultural consultants in your region have experience in smart farming methods?

Yes, a small percentage of agricultural consultants has relevant experience, mainly in irrigation scheduling for maize.

What motivated you to get involved in the APOLLO project and try its services?

I wanted to have a tool that would help me to identify crop problems reliably and rapidly. It also seemed exciting to have a hand in creating such a tool and seeing how it would work first hand.

Photo credits: Giorgos Savvidis

What APOLLO offers to farmers in La Mancha Oriental, Spain?

Our partners in La Mancha Oriental, Agrisat, speak about their region and explain how APOLLO will help local growers overcome some of their major challenges.

1. Tell us about Agrisat!

AgriSat is a Spanish SME based in Albacete (Spain), founded in May 2014 as a spin-off of a series of EU and national projects dedicated to the development and demonstration of the operational use of Earth observation (EO) and web-based Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for water management and farm advisory services. We draw on 20 years of experience in leading-edge technology, which has been rigorously tested and applied in the form of decision support tools for operational irrigation and farm management in a wide range of environments. Our mission is to make this knowledge and the corresponding easy-to-use tools widely available to the water and agriculture sectors and thus, to help farmers save water, energy, and inputs while maintaining or increasing yields and ultimately increase farm profitability in an overall context of sustainable agriculture.
In APOLLO, we are responsible for the co-creation of services with the help of users, as well as for the pilot implementation of the platform in Spain. 20 farmers from our region are participating in the APOLLO pilot.

2. What makes the La Mancha Oriental region unique from an agricultural point of view?

La Mancha Oriental is located on the south-eastern end of a plateau some 600-800 meters above sea level. The mountain ranges which surround the area are a double-edged sword: whilst protecting the region from damaging storms, they bring about extreme temperatures in both winter and summer, and cause dry, arid conditions in the area. As a result of these geophysical and climatic properties, many of La Mancha’s rainfed crops are extensively farmed. These include cereals (wheat, barley, etc.), legumes (peas, bitter vetch, etc.), and woody crops such as grapes and almonds. In addition, this area favours the cultivation of saffron, which is renowned for its world-class quality. The area supports 100,000 ha of irrigated land, supplied by water pumped from the aquifer by numerous wells.

Credits: Vicente Bodas3. What is the typical profile of a La Mancha Oriental farmer?

Typical farmers in La Mancha are men and women between 40 and 45 years old. Farms range between 10 and 30 hectares in size, with the average plot measuring approximately 2 hectares. The main crops cultivated in La Mancha are maize, winter wheat, chinese and purple garlic, wine grapes, almonds and olives.

4. Do farmers in La Mancha have experience in smart farming methods?

Yes, some of our farmers have been using smart farming methods for a number of years. Popular examples include irrigation scheduling, crop monitoring systems (water and nutritional needs) and – more recently – positioning systems, self-guided vehicles, crop yield monitoring methods and variable-rate nutrient application. Information derived from Earth Observation satellites has been used for 20 years to control aquifer water abstractions in a large part of the area*. More recently, Earth Observation data have been used for on-farm management operations such as irrigation and fertilisation**.
The two most important obstacles standing in the way of greater technological uptake are (1) access to the technology itself, which is often down to its high up-front costs; and (2) lack of knowledge on the use of such technology. The latter is starting to change as more farmers become aware of how much they can do with new and existing technologies.
APOLLO can assist farmers by providing affordable tools and easy-to-use technology that can help them to make more informed decisions regarding the tasks that must be performed on the crops at different times during the growing cycle.

Credits: Vicente Bodas5. Why did Spanish farmers choose to get involved in the APOLLO project?

Farmers in La Mancha see their participation in APOLLO as an opportunity to improve their understanding of how new technology can facilitate their decision making on the job, and ultimately save them time and money.

6. Is there a particular benefit that the APOLLO services will bring to La Mancha Oriental?

APOLLO’s four services can provide farmers in La Mancha with numerous benefits, many of which relate to overcoming some of the local challenges:

  • Tillage Scheduling: Although rainfall in our area is generally scarce, it does become moderate at certain crucial moments during the year, such as the cereal sowing period. This service will enable farmers to plan the pre-sowing tillage at the most appropriate time for the soil at a given parcel. In addition, they will be able to schedule tillage for the entire farm based on APOLLO’s recommendations.
  • Irrigation Scheduling: Although rainfed crops predominate in La Mancha, and water resources are limited, there are a certain number of irrigated farms in our region. APOLLO tools can be of great help in managing limited water resources and optimising water used in irrigating crops.
  • Crop Growth Monitoring: Information on the nutritional and health status of crops is crucial in order to obtain a yield and quality that translates into economic benefits. This APOLLO service ensures that farmers have access to this information for their crops, while also helping them to make decisions when it comes to applying plant protection treatment, for example.
  • Crop yield estimation: This APOLLO service is particularly interesting as regards the planning of harvest logistics, since in many cases this is an extra burden for farmers to have to deal with. Working out the size of the harvest can help the farmer to make decisions on the size and number of vehicles which must be made available for transporting crops, for example, as well as on the harvest’s destination (market or storage).

The APOLLO pilots are already underway in La Mancha Oriental. The first results of the pilots will be communicated in early autumn.

Image credits: Vicente Bodas.

*An initiative under the framework of the long-term project ERMOT which is jointly funded by farmers, regional government, and the River-Basin Authority.
**Introduced by the EU projects PLEIADeS, SIRIUS and FATIMA, and national projects like HERMANA.

Less is more: How better water resource management can improve the quality and quantity of your yield

Water is one of the most important elements supporting life on our planet. Climate change, urban expansion, and the need to feed a constantly growing population are greatly affecting fresh water resources. Certain areas are faced with imminent water scarcity, and paying for fresh water will soon become a reality in many regions in order to minimise wasted water.
It is therefore evident that there is a strong relationship between agriculture and water resources, especially for crops growing in areas with low precipitation. Overuse of water for irrigation may result in water scarcity, and irrigation practices must be adapted accordingly. But for farmers, water scarcity is not only the problem threatening their yields.

Credits: Ugljesa TrkuljaThe artificial application of water often leads to over- or under-irrigation; both of which are damaging for crops due to the changes they bring about in soil quality. Maintaining the appropriate levels of soil moisture is a key factor for the healthy growth of plants, as it greatly affects the fertility of the land. Up until recently, water was relatively cheap and easily accessible in most places in Europe. Therefore, for many farmers it is has become common practice to apply (often unnecessary) quantities of water when symptoms of unhealthy crop growth are observed. However, making judgements about soil moisture based on plant observation alone is inherently inaccurate, as it relies on the farmer’s assumptions about sufficient crop moisture levels. This practice usually leads to over-irrigation, jeopardising the health of crops.

Excessive irrigation can result in:

  • seeds not getting enough air to “breathe” (respire) effectively, thus hampering germination;
  • plant roots not growing properly, again due to lack of oxygen;
  • increased surface salt due to evaporation, affecting soil fertility;
  • the creation of an environment favourable to diseases;
  • the movement of nutrients and pesticides from the root zone into the ground water (“leaching”);
  • increased cultivation costs.

On the other hand, it is well-known that lack of water can hamper the crop’s health. When irrigation is performed at the right stages during their growing season, it can preserve the crop’s high quality and increase the expected yield. Knowing when plants need water and – perhaps more importantly – when not to irrigate is the first step towards a healthy and prosperous cropland and sustainable resource management. Besides improving the soil’s fertility, good irrigation management can help farmers to minimise the cost of pumping water; the key is to improve crop water use efficiency.

“Using less water, farmers can achieve the same quality / quantity yield and potentially improve it”.

Keeping soil fertile from year to year

Keeping the soil’s moisture at the appropriate level and preventing its fertility from degrading (through nutrient leaching) will save the grower energy, money, and labour. Degraded soil will need time and additional inputs, in the form of nutrients, to return to its initial state – and this can have a negative impact on yield over several growing cycles.
Scheduling irrigation is a complex task. Water resources (which in many cases are limited), salinity, and rainfall variability/uncertainty are some of the environmental parameters that need to be taken into account for proper water management. Routine irrigation without proper consideration of these parameters will almost always result in overirrigation and waste of water and energy. In addition, different crops demand different irrigation strategies over the various crop growth phases.

Good irrigation practices lead to:

  • high quality yields;
  • keeping the soil moisture at a stable level so that the possibility of diseases is minimised while attractiveness to pests is also decreased.
  • energy conservation;
  • water conservation
  • increasing farm productivity.

Credits: Ugljesa Trkulja

How APOLLO can help

From seeding to harvest, APOLLO will help growers to easily improve their farm water management.
APOLLO will provide regularly updated advisory information regarding irrigation (Irrigation Scheduling Service) along with weather data in one-glance interpretation maps. Specifically, APOLLO will provide information on irrigation timing and dosage along with a weather forecast.
Farmers will be able to use these maps to make better decisions on irrigation, saving both energy and time. The expected result is higher quality yields with less water consumption.

APOLLO’s Irrigation Scheduling service will be provided at a low cost to farmers. It can be used alongside the Tillage Scheduling and Crop Growth Monitoring services. The APOLLO services are provided independently from one another, but the natural relationship between tilling, irrigation and crop growth means that it makes sense to use the three of them together.

Relevant APOLLO data products will also be valuable to agricultural consultants, who will be better able to give trustworthy advice to their clients.

1. Huang, B. and Scott NeSmith, D. (1999), “Soil aeration effects on root growth and activity”, Acta Hortic. 504, 41-52, DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.1999.504.3, https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.1999.504.3
2. Suat Irmak, Soil and Water Resources Engineer and Irrigation Engineering Specialist, Professor (2014), “Plant Growth and Yield as Affected by Wet Soil Conditions Due to Flooding or Over-Irrigation”, Nebraska extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
3. Growstone (2012), “The importance of aeration of soil”.
4. Bhishm Khanna, “What are the harmful effects of excessive irrigation?”, Preserve articles website.

Special thanks to our scientific advisor Mr. Evangelos Anastasiou, Agronomist, Agricultural University of Athens.

Image credits: Uglješa Trkulja, UPOR

APOLLO services go live to trial users!

Starting this month, and until the end of September 2017, APOLLO services will be tested in the field by trial users as part of the project’s pilot phase. This exciting development represents a milestone in the development of the services and will pave the way for their future evolution.

The first agricultural season will pave the way towards the 2nd agricultural season later in 2018 and the finalisation of services which is scheduled for early 2019.

APOLLO’s pilot phase is a co-creation process between growers, consultants and the APOLLO team, during which the initial versions of the services are put to the test and validated in fields in Greece, Serbia and Spain. Each pilot region has its own environmental characteristics as well as its own farming tradition, and the services will be tested on both irrigated and non-irrigated crops.
APOLLO aims to develop effective, easy to use yet affordable advisory services, and this wouldn’t be possible without meaningful engagement with farmers and consultants, trying the services in real-life conditions. In this way, not only will the services be tested and constantly improved, but trial users will be trained (free of charge) and informed on how to exploit APOLLO technology for the benefit of their farms.

This is a great opportunity for farmers and agricultural consultants to participate in the creation of new services, which are closely tailored to their needs. APOLLO aims to provide advice for both farmers and agricultural consultants, and more specialised data (such as NDVI, biomass, soil moisture information etc.) to agricultural consultants. With APOLLO, the benefits of recommendations will out weight their costs, as by design APOLLO will be available at a very competitive price.
APOLLO pilot activities during the first agricultural season will cover a range of crops in the pilot areas, as per the following table:

May-September 2017
Pilot Country Crop
Agricultural Association of Pella Greece
  • Cotton
  • Durum wheat
Municipality of Ruma Serbia
  • Barley
  • Maize
  • Sunflower
  • Sugarbeet
  • Winter wheat
  • Soybean
La Mancha Oriental Spain
  • Maize
  • Winter wheat
  • Chinese garlic
  • Purple garlic
  • Wine grapes
  • Almond trees
  • Olive trees

If you are interested you can register here to become a trial user at any time.

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Hot off the press: Download our new brochure and leaflet!

APOLLO brochure and leaflet now available for download!

We are pleased to announce that our 8-page full-colour brochure and 3-fold leaflet are now available to download!

The APOLLO brochure offers insight into our objectives, services and pilots and describes why we care about delivering high-end precision agricultural advice services to smallholder farmers, through innovative remote sensing technologies.

The APOLLO leaflet offers an overview of APOLLO’s accessible, affordable, and easy-to-use services and the pilot areas on which they will be tested.

Download the brochure and leaflet at the following links:

Why farmers in Ruma, Serbia are interested in APOLLO

One of the APOLLO project’s three pilot areas, the Municipality of Ruma in northern Serbia is an agricultural haven with a great deal of development potential. We sat down with the Bojana Lanc and Uglješa Trkulja from the Farmer’s Association of the Municipality of Ruma – a partner in the APOLLO project – to find out more about Ruma and its farmers, and why they are interested in the APOLLO project.

What makes the Ruma region unique from an agricultural point of view?
Ruma is a municipality in the Vojvodina province of northern Serbia. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin between the Danube and Sava rivers and not far from the Fruška Gora mountain, the “jewel of Serbia”. Agriculture has been a part of life in in Ruma since the times of earliest settlements, thanks to its flat, fertile plains and favourable micro-climate.

About 55.000 people live in Ruma, of which almost 11.300 work in agriculture, almost exclusively in family holdings. The area contains some 6.000 agricultural holdings and this number is increasing. Crop production is still the dominant agricultural activity, but some younger farmers are rapidly diversifying into fruit and vegetable production.

“UPOR is working hard to raise the profile of the agricultural sector and encourage incentives for local agricultural development”

With industrial development booming in recent decades, the area is grappling with the twin challenges of rapid development and modernisation faced by many pre-accession countries. Besides establishing sustainable development in the region, there is a great interest in environmental sustainability, and specifically in preserving local biodiversity.

Agricultural sustainability and efficient resource management could help the Municipality of Ruma and its surroundings to become a development model in Serbia. UPOR is working hard to raise the profile of the agricultural sector and encourage incentives for local agricultural development, recognising the many possibilities for small enterprises dealing with the production of agricultural machines and equipment, processing and upgrading agricultural product

Credits: Ugljesa TrkuljaDo farmers have experience in smart farming methods?
Smart farming is something which is not unfamiliar to our farmers, although it is probably safe to say that the full potential of using smart technologies in agriculture in this region is not yet realised. Despite Ruma’s thriving agricultural sector, neither small farmers nor local agricultural consultants have access to, or make use of advanced agricultural information on its full capacity.
This is partly due to the ongoing transition, both at state and individual level, from a centrally-planned agricultural system. As time passes, the role of modern technology in improving both yields and profits is increasingly being recognised. Within APOLLO, small farmers, agricultural consultants, and members or affiliates of the Association, will have the chance to access new technologies and be directly involved in testing and implementing the APOLLO services.


How many farmers are taking part in the APOLLO pilot?
At the moment, there are twenty farmers involved at the territory of the municipality of Ruma. Crop samples and the necessary data for the project have been collected from their fields on several occasions. There is a clear interest for farmers from the surrounding municipalities to be involved, a goal we are working towards. For the moment, they are providing us with their views and user needs. We are preparing the ground to involve them as a group which will test and evaluate the first version of the application in real conditions.


“There is a clear interest for farmers from the surrounding municipalities to be involved – a goal we are working towards.”

Is there a particular benefit that the APOLLO services will bring to your area?
Prevention of economic losses caused by diseases and pests affecting the crops is very important. Therefore, information regarding crop growth will be crucial. Land moisture is important, but at the moment, only a small number of crop cultures, seed crops, is being irrigated. On the other hand, yield estimation and the quality of products – mainly their content in protein – are becoming more and more important.


What are the main crops growing in Ruma?
The main crops cultivated in Ruma are: barley, maize, sunflower, sugarbeet, winter wheat and soybean.


What is the profile of a Ruma typical farmer?
In Ruma, farmers are mainly young people in their mid-30’s as well as middle-aged men and women (45-50 years old). Whilst generally sceptical of change, there is willingness to try different methods that are proving to be successful. Ruma farmers are keen on participating in discussions regarding the status of the agricultural sector in their area and to provide their suggestions for solving problems. They are practical in everyday life and work, interested in learning from the experiences of other farmers (especially in other countries), and ready to cooperate.

Image credits: Ugljesa Trkulja


Why you need to improve your tillage practices – and how APOLLO can help!

Tillage has been inseparable from crop production since the earliest days of agriculture. Tillage is the very first task at the beginning of an agricultural season. It is the practice of preparing the soil for planting, usually performed on farms using specialised tillage implements. High yields are associated with well-cultivated soil, providing a proper environment for seeds to germinate and roots to grow. In addition, tillage can help to control weeds, disrupt pest lifecycles, incorporate nutrients into the soil, and manage crop residues*. Tillage affects soil workability and thereby eventually impacts all other field operations: the amount of necessary water for irrigation, the amount of pesticide, as well as the necessary supplement of nutrients. According to APOLLO’s user requirements survey, it has been identified that tillage and spraying were the operations carried out most frequently by farmers during a crop period, independent of the crop type. In addition, it was found that farmers who apply conservation agriculture may decide not plough the soil at all. On the other hand, farmers that practise more intensive agriculture (e.g. in Spain) carry out a higher number of such operations in a year. It is evident that tillage plays a central role throughout the agricultural season.

Keep your soil healthy means higher yields
Tillage quality is crucial in order for crops to complete their biological cycle. Tillage creates suitable growing conditions and promotes sustainable soil fertility. The amount of water in the soil is an important consideration for effective tillage. If soil is tilled when its water content is higher than soil’s upper plastic limit, large clods can be produced and structural damage can occur to the soil, which will impede plant growth and lead to uneven stands. If, on the other hand, the soil water content is less than soil’s lower plastic limit, tillage requires excessive energy and dust is created resulting to severe soil degradation. This is a major threat to agricultural sustainability. When tillage is performed when soil moisture conditions are optimal, soil degradation is reduced, and energy efficiency is improved. Healthy soil allows water infiltration, root penetration, and air exchange to occur, while the best conditions are created for germination and growing.
As previously mentioned, tillage affects many soil parameters that are crucial for the efficiency of cropping inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides, the uptake of water and its transpiration, soil biophysical properties and processes, greenhouse gas emissions, etc.

Reduce costs and decrease emissions
Of all farm management practices, tillage may have the greatest impact on the environment. One aspect of ineffective tillage practices is soil degradation. Tillage is the most energy-hungry – and, hence, most costly – field operation. Tillage can account for more than exceed 50% of the total fuel consumption during a growing season. Some farmers do not till their soil, as a practice, in order to avoid downgrading the soil quality and to reduce costs. However, not tilling seems to imply other important environmental risks. In recent years, it has been proven that compared to no-till practices, tillage lowers the amount of nitrous oxide (N2O) released into the atmosphere per hectare by up to 66% percent. This is significant considering that nitrous oxide is one of the most potent greenhouse gases, trapping up to 300 times more heat that carbon dioxide (CO2). Hence, it becomes obvious that improved tillage practices could be a better solution to help reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions than not tilling at all.

Going organic
Organic farming is all about minimising the use of harmful chemicals and maintaining environmental and agricultural sustainability. Two of the main problems that organic farmers need to deal with without the help of pesticides and herbicides are weeds and pests. A common technique to address these issues is by means of tillage. On one hand, organic farmers cannot use chemical herbicides to control weeds. On the other hand, weeds can be hosts of pests and diseases and thus weed control can also help in pest control. So instead of spraying pesticides, organic farmers simply till more often than conventional farmers. However, such frequent tillage might increase the negative impacts on soil quality and prove costly through the extra wear on machinery and additional labour requirements. Producers should consider the impact of sustained frequent tillage on soil quality and resources management.

Current practices
Farmers generally decide when it is best to till based on their own experience. Four issues are usually taken into account: i) the weather, ii) the soil moisture, iii) the current month, and iv) what operations are planned after the tillage, and how soon it would be feasible to perform them after tilling. For example, inappropriate tilling may result in delays to the seeding operation. Seeding later than the appropriate seeding time usually leads to yield decrease because the crop doesn’t take advantage of its genotype’s yield capacity.
Usually, the final decision on when to till is taken in the field using the “touch and feel” method, which of course means physically visiting the field. On this basis, the farmer decides whether to till immediately or not. If best management practices are applied, fuel and labour time can be reduced, whilst avoiding low quality tillage operations that may result in yield decrease.

How can farmers benefit from the APOLLO Tillage Scheduling service?
APOLLO aims to help farmers to sustainably manage their fields and create the conditions for reducing costs and enable higher yields. By providing information anytime and anywhere on when tillage should be performed, farmers will be able to make better decisions. The advice provided by APOLLO can also help farmers to improve their resource consumption. Farmers will be better able to assess when to perform tillage and to identify soil workability across the field. They will therefore be able to immediately address issues which tilling could solve, e.g. areas that require draining.

Currently, there is no application or a farm management tool available on the market that helps farmers to schedule tillage operations.

Long-term benefits Benefits
Reduce Costs
  • Less fuel
  • Less need for irrigation
  • Less pesticides
  • Less wear and tear of farm machinery
  • Less maintenance of farm machinery
  • Improved yield
  • Less N2O emissions
  • Less CO2 emissions
  • Less need for irrigation
  • Less pesticides

The APOLLO Tillage Scheduling service will help farmers to reduce their fuel consumption during field operations, improve soil workability and potentially sustain resources from seeding to harvest.


We would like to thank Mr. Zisis Tsiropoulos (Agronomist), Mr. Evangelos Anastasiou (Agronomist) and Dr. Spyros Fountas (Precision Agriculture expert) from the Agricultural University of Athens, for their scientific contribution to this article.

Image credits: Zbysiu Rodak (https://unsplash.com/@zbigniew)


*Crop residues may cause problems during seeding. Tillage can help to manage crop residues by incorporating them into the soil and thus avoiding problems during seeding.


With farmers, for farmers: the APOLLO co-creation process

APOLLO services aim to help primarily small-holder farmers in Europe and beyond to achieve more sustainable farming practices, fewer losses and potentially increased agricultural yields. Placing benefits for farmers at the forefront, a co-creation approach is being implemented to guide the APOLLO services’ development, through which end users will have the opportunity to contribute to the creation of the services and their validation. Developing affordable, accessible and efficient agricultural services is about understanding traditional farming methods and how new technologies can support, enrich and enhance them.

We care about your experience

Yield increases, lower costs and sustainable farming practices are the ultimate goals of the APOLLO services. But no two farms are exactly alike; there is a great of diversity in farm specificities, local ecosystems and the farming methods used. This is true of different regions and countries and even between local farms within the same geographical area. Understanding the farmer’s real challenges and needs across the agricultural season, for various crops and in a range of environmental conditions is therefore essential in the service development process. The valuable knowledge which farmers have about their land, water, crops and other local resources can be used to develop better, more tailored services.

Working closely together with farmers will guarantee improved user experiences. It will enable the development of solutions that can be easily incorporated into traditional practices, improving sustainable farming and potentially lead to more profitable yields.

With farmers, for farmers

It was early in the lifetime of the APOLLO project that end users were invited to contribute to the development of service concepts. Farmers from the pilot areas have expressed their requirements through APOLLO’s online survey and through surveys conducted in the field by local project partners. The farmers’ feedback was collected and assessed by APOLLO experts, and formed the basis for the development of the APOLLO platform. Once the initial APOLLO services are available, they will be tested and validated during the agricultural seasons in 2017 and 2018, in three countries of continental Europe: Greece, Serbia and Spain.

We invite you to join us

In 2017, the APOLLO co-creation process will be launched through three collaborative workshops to be held in each pilot area, to be held before and during the agricultural season (March-September 2017). The meetings will bring together local farmers, agricultural consultants, WUA* technicians and APOLLO developers. Participants will be invited to contribute, evaluate, and refine ideas and concepts related to the APOLLO services. Together, developers and farmers will discuss current practices, evaluate the preliminary APOLLO service designs and generate solutions together, taking into account their different approaches, needs, and points of view.

After each meeting a follow-up session will be held in order to discuss emerging issues and the progress of the APOLLO pilots. These meetings will be used to assess and identify the practices and the challenges farmers deal with in their daily farm management routine, as well as the benefits that the APOLLO services are bringing to these activities. Based on the current best farming practices registered and the users’ feedback on the use of APOLLO services, APOLLO developers will be able to constantly improve and tailor the different services, to maximise the overall user experience.

If you are interested to learn more about the APOLLO co-creation meetings and how you can benefit by participating, please feel free to contact us.

Special thanks to our co-creation coordinator Dr. Anna Ossan (AgriSat) for her contribution to this article
Image credits: Vicente Bodas

*WUA: Water User Associations

What to expect from APOLLO in 2017?

2017 will be a milestone year for the APOLLO project, since it will be the first time that APOLLO services are tested and validated on operational farms and fields. The APOLLO project has covered a lot of ground in the short nine months since it began, and as the new year dawns, we thought it would be a good moment to reflect on what has been achieved so far, and look ahead to what you can expect for 2017.

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