Jacob van den Borne runs an arable farm with six permanent employees in Reusel, a town in Dutch Brabant near the Belgian border. Approximately 80% of the almost 700 hectares of land are located in Belgium. He leases the predominantly light, sandy soil from livestock farmers with the main purpose of growing processing potatoes.
Although the entire building plan is geared toward potato cultivation, the farm also cultivates sugar beet, winter wheat, winter barley, and corn in rotation as part of its cooperative arrangement with the livestock farmers.
“My passion is getting soils ‘up and running’ by applying new techniques”
Van den Borne focuses on precision agriculture and sustainability. Since he takes all harvested potatoes into storage himself, he also needs to consider storage quality.
The company has its own precision agriculture center, complete with trial fields, where it researches new techniques, products, and cultivation methods. In the future, Jacob would like to develop this into a training center that focuses on the convergence between precision agriculture and soil life.
For three years now, Jacob van den Borne has been applying controlled-release fertilizers on his potato crop. Although Van den Borne was well aware of the potential of this new form of fertilization, he first performed trials on his own farm – as he always does, being a man who goes by the motto “seeing is believing.”
Slow-release fertilizers have been known in the market for years. Controlled-release fertilizers, however, are more in line with growing conditions. What makes them unique is that they’re applied at the start of cultivation, after which the nitrogen becomes available at the right moment during the fertilizer’s longevity. Click here to read more about how controlled release fertilizer work.
Better Processing Potatoes
Van den Borne’s major observations are the more constant growth and a perceived improvement in the potatoes’ storability, as the plants experience less stress during the growth phase. He says the lower number of growth spurts ensures a better size and length of the tubers.
“Salt can be detrimental to soil life, which is why controlled release of fertilizers is the most soil-friendly application of mineral fertilizers”
According to Van den Borne, controlled-release fertilizer is the only form of mineral fertilizer that comes close to precision agriculture. As the fertilizers are released when the plant needs them, they’re used as much as possible and don’t leach. He uses ICL Specialty Fertilizers’ Agrocote Max on his potatoes.
The positive impact on soil life and the availability of fertilizers at the right time substantially increased additional yield in the 2017 growing year. The fertilizers were even effective in 2018 and 2019, both dry years. As can be expected, preventing leaching in a wet year can have huge benefits.
A Plus for Profitability
The easy application method – using a fertilizer spreader before planting – reduces the number of actions required, saving time and money. So, taking everything into account, the higher costs per kilogram of fertilizer deliver a plus for growers. However, as far as Jacob is concerned, the major benefits are in terms of nature and soil life. And the more particular the potato variety, the greater the positive effect of controlled-release fertilizer.
“The more particular the potato variety, the greater the positive effect”
Van den Borne now also applies controlled-release fertilizers on winter wheat and winter barley, mainly because this reduces sensitivity to leaching.
ICL Specialty Fertilizers markets controlled-release fertilizers for potato cultivation under the brand names Agromaster and Agrocote Max.
Agrocote Max is a pure product in that it only contains controlled-release granules, whereas Agromaster consists of controlled released fertilizers mixed with selected, fast-acting fertilizers.