The first step when creating an analysis in OverseerFM is to define the blocks that make up the farm. Details for creating blocks is described in this article, including adding forests to a tree block to assess carbon sequestration. Information on the sequence of entering data into OverseerFM can be found in the OverseerFM Basics section.
This article assumes the reader has extensive farm systems knowledge. Decisions on creating OverseerFM analyses are dependent on working knowledge of the farm being analysed.
OverseerFM analyses nutrient movements within similarly managed land on a farm to produce nutrient budgets that identify where nutrients are being lost from the system (as leaching, run-off or emissions) rather than being converted into product. To do this OverseerFM defines blocks as land that is managed similarly.
OverseerFM is mostly interested in the nutrient flows through productive areas of the farm, but there is also the ability to include blocks of land that are not used to grow food, as these can have an impact on the farms nutrient footprint.
OverseerFM blocks include; pasture, crop, fruit, outdoor pig, trees and scrub, house, fenced wetlands and riparian. The following information relates to the productive block types, as no soil or management information is required for the other blocks.
What is a block?
As a block may contain multiple soils and irrigation, it could be defined as land used for a common purpose and managed in a similar way. It can be made up of areas of the farm separated from each other but managed in the same way.
Larger blocks provide the model with more flexibility in averaging out the usage of the block. Because of this, when creating blocks, try to combine paddocks and only separate on soils and irrigation where it is significant to the area being modeled.
When dividing a farm into blocks, each block should:
- Grow the same pasture/fruit or crop
- Support similar animals
- Have similar climate
- Have similar topography (for pastoral blocks)
- Have similar fertiliser applied
- Have the same drainage system
Soil and water added through rain or irrigation are important factors in drainage and nutrient flows and previous versions of Overseer software have required setting up management blocks based on a single soil type and irrigation application. To reduce data entry effort and align with farm practice, OverseerFM allows for up to three soils and two irrigation systems per management block. The model breaks these down in the background.
If you import a farm file where the blocks have been divided by soil/irrigation, these will be imported as is. You have the choice of combining the blocks (using the simplify tool) or leaving them separated. We suggest leaving older analyses and only converting the new ones that will be used going forward.
After creating a new analysis, the only option available is to create a block. You have the choice of "Create first block" or importing a map of the farm:
A block sets the farm up into similarly managed land parcels, and determines their climate and soil characteristics (and forestry details for Tree blocks).
If the user chooses to "Create first block" the Add Block modal will open, this includes a map on which you can draw the outline of the block. The map location is based on the address entered when creating the farm.
You do not need to draw the blocks perfectly, it should simply be representative of the block so that users can understand which blocks are on the farm.
Draw the block by clicking on the map at each point of the block and then click the starting point to complete the outline. You should see the outline being created as you click on each point.
The effective area is populated based on the area of the drawn block. This may be an approximation depending on the drawing and topography of the land. If the actual area is known this should be changed to the actual value. The calculated area will remain in the blue box for reference.
The climate details are automatically populated based on location.
Uploading a digital map
Instead of drawing block areas it is now possible the upload digital maps to OverseerFM. To do this select the "Import a map of this farm" option.
Once a map file is selected you can preview it in OverseerFM before saving it:
Once the map is saved, the "polygons" or land parcels within it must be assigned to blocks.
Land parcels can be assigned simply by selecting them. The first land parcel selected will auto-fill the "Effective area" data entry for the new block. If you select more than one land parcel, a warning will appear to draw attention the to the difference between the "drawn" area and the effective area of the block - as below, where the effective area shows as 93.7ha but the drawn area is 158.7ha. This can then be manually corrected, at the same time as naming the block and selecting it's type.
Once block type is defined, the additional data entry fields will appear for completion.
Once the first block is defined, additional blocks can be defined - or drawn - using the "Add new block" or "Assign mapped land to a new block" buttons, until all of the blocks have been defined.
If you find you have areas of the map which you do not wish to include in an analysis - these can be deleted by opening a block and then selecting the parcel of land you wish to delete.
Adding soils to the block
The management of block soils has ben moved to the "Soil" tab. So once blocks are defined, you should select the "I have completed all my blocks" the software will move you to the Soil tab.
OverseerFM now auto assigns soils to a block using the S-map information available. Up to three soils can be added to a block. Each soil is defined as representing a percentage of the block area.
These auto-assigned soils can be edited by selecting the block name, which will bring up the Edit Block Soils screen.
The S-map soils (where available) that intersect the block are shown on the map. The soils (siblings) are listed in a box at the top right of the map. You can switch between viewing by sibling reference or viewing by polygon (soil outline).
The soil areas drawn on the map are called polygons. Each polygon may contain one or more soil siblings as defined by Landcare in S-map. Where there is more than one soil sibling within a polygon, each soil sibling is given a proportion (percentage of the polygon that is likely to be that sibling).
Each polygon defines a percentage of the block that it intersects. The total percentage is determined by multiplying the proportion of the polygon by the percentage that polygon intersects the block.
Currently OverseerFM does not return polygons that are less than 2% of the block. Therefore, the total intersecting percentage may not add to 100.
Select ‘+’ for the soils that you wish to add to the block. Only add dominant soils, such that any single soil is not too small in area.
Using soil order/group
If there is no SMap data available or it is not deemed appropriate, soils can be added manually. Selecting ‘Add new soil’ will launch the following. You can select an existing soil (one that has been used on another block), enter an SMap reference or select soil order and/or group.
Using farm soils
Soils that have already been used on the farm are also displayed in a table on the map. These can also be selected for the block from here.
Adjusting soil percentages
Adding soils will populate the block soils section (shown below). You can adjust the percentages of each soil by selecting and dragging the blue circles on the slider. No single soil can be under 10% and the total of all soils must equal 100%.
Adding forests to tree blocks
To understand the sequestration potential of trees growing on farm, OverseerFM enables forest details to be added to tree and scrub blocks and using the MPI Carbon Look-up tables report the carbon sequestration over time. We call this the Carbon Stock tool.
Forests can be added to your farm whilst creating or editing a trees and scrub block by clicking on the "Add new forest" button in the forests section of the block.
Multiple forests can be created for a single tree block. The following video describes how the carbon stock tool works in OverseerFM and how to add forests to your Overseer trees and scrub blocks.
Use the button “Save and Create new” to cycle through the creation of each block. When finished select save and then from the main screen select “I have completed all my blocks”.
This will show all the tabs to enter the remaining farm management details for this analysis.