Home » Issue 27-2023 » News » AgroVation – Between tinkering, testing and economic efficiency

AgroVation – Between tinkering, testing and economic efficiency

In 2012, the Horsch family took over the farm AgroVation in Kněžmost, Czech Republic, with the objective to practise future-oriented and economic arable farming. Constantin Horsch explains why CTF is no longer seen as a dogma on the farm and what they are working on in the Czech Republic.

At AgroVation, the Horsch family develops methods for state-of-the-art farming with efficient technology and know-how to find answers to the practical farming and political requirements. They consider it as their task to find solutions for the objectives of the Green Deal, the requirements of the GAP and a safe production of food under changing weather conditions. The focus of all these new production technologies clearly is on the economic efficiency of the farm.

In 2017, the management was transferred to the brothers Constantin and Lucas Horsch. By now, AgroVation has turned into a merely arable farm that grows rapeseed, winter wheat, grain maize, winter barley, sugar beet and soya. A total area of 3,800 hectares is farmed, 3,600 hectares of which are arable land, and 200 hectares are grassland. "We try to combine traditional arable farming with the new challenges - with a clear focus on profitability. We analyse our farms and constantly compare our economic figures with other arable farms in an advisory group to review our actions. I consider this benchmarking to be very important," Constantin Horsch explains. "We don't want to follow a farming strategy that is driven by ideologies."

13 people (including the farm manager) are permanently employed at the farm – they work in the field and in the repair shop as well as in administration and accounting.

Turning away from the CTF method?

Right from the start, Control Traffic Farming (CTF) was pushed at AgroVation. Sophisticated track planning with an obstacle avoiding system in a 12 m pattern was already implemented in the early years. “This means: tracks are planned every 12 m and all machines may only drive on these planned tracks. Tillage and seeding as well as the harvest are carried out in the specified pattern. Fertilisation and crop care measures are carried out in every third track of the 36 m tramline system. In our HORSCH CTF strategy, the tracks of all our tractors, too, were adapted to the track width of the combine. The result was that the track width of all machines was 3 m. The objective was to minimise the tracks in the field. We also used powertracks to achieve this.“

“When my brother and I took over the management of AgroVation, we put CTF to the test”, Constantin Horsch continues. “Our the fields had become very uneven because tillage was carried out exclusively in the CTF direction. This was the first thing we wanted to change. After the harvest, the first tillage pass was carried out in an angle to the seeding resp. combining direction. We used our HORSCH Cruiser and achieved the desired result of a good straw distribution and levelling of the field. For all passes starting at seeding, we consider a cultivation according to the CTF system with fixed tracks to be very positive and we will continue to use it. Thus, we can, for example when seeding wheat directly after soybeans, shift the machine by means of GPS so that the seed coulter runs some centimetres beside the old stubble row. As a result, the seed coulters run more smoothly, and a clean seed furrow is created for seeding.” The CTF system has a particularly positive effect during the harvest: controlled traffic in case of wet conditions during harvest prevents a completely “torn up” field. The combines are equipped with a 12 m unloading auger so that the auger wagon can drive in the next track.
To rely exclusively on powertracks and a 3-m track for all machines is complicated and cost-intensive. “We wanted to simplify this and decided to focus more on standard technology“, Constantin Horsch explains. “The whole technology at the farm has changed a lot in the past years. Now we only use standard tractors with state-of-the-art tyre technology – no more powertrack tractors.”


  • 2x 500 hp tractors - tillage
  • 1x 400 hp tractor - tillage and seeding
  • 2x 250 hp tractors - fertilisation and light tillage (fine seedbed preparation)
  • 1x 140 hp tractor - e.g. for mulching and supporting activities
  • 1x 81 hp tractor - e.g. for mulching and other activities
  • 1 telescopic handler
  • 1 wheel loader for loading work
  • 2 combines with CTF unloading auger
  • 2 fertiliser spreaders
  • 1 Leeb PT 8 300 self-propelled sprayer
  • Numerous HORSCH machines in the test

Expanding the rotation

“During the first years, we had a short rotation in the Czech Republic with rapeseed, wheat, maize, wheat. This means: 50% wheat, 25% rapeseed and 25% maize. In this respect, we are still in a change and optimisation process. To loosen the crop rotation and to reduce the share of rapeseed in the long run, we included other crops like soybeans and sugar beet in the rotation”, Constantin Horsch states. “We want to counteract future problems like emerging weeds and resistances with a longer rotation and by changing between winter and spring crops. Meanwhile we have also been dealing with niche crops like quinoa and chick peas. The niche crops turned out to be rather time-consuming and sales were a major challenge.”

Where is crop care heading?

At the farm, we use crop care in a targeted way and take a holistic view of the measures to work as efficiently as possible as well as to save costs. Thus, the use of a herbicide and tillage are related directly. Especially when seeding in spring in wet conditions or for direct seeding, herbicide strategies with a total herbicide make sense so that we can include the valuable catch crops with all their positive characteristics. In total, it is about providing the crop with good starting conditions and minimising complex herbicide post-treatments.
The objective to carry out crop care measures under a holistic aspect in a highly efficient way and as cost-effective as possible is a very important topic at the farm. For some years, they have been carrying out tests in the sectors band application in row crops and SpotSpraying. Band application in sugar beet results in easily calculable savings in the resources used. The method can easily be put into practice on level fields. For sugar beet, they tested different strategies in order to save resources. In the weather conditions of for example last year, the optimum solution was to treat the emerged germination leaves on one horizon followed by a band application as a second treatment of the emerged germination leaves and then to hoe mechanically shortly before the rows close. The farm has already been carrying out tests and developments with regard to SpotSpraying for several years. The tests were carried out by means of a drone and the analysis of the graphic material by an AI, but they also tested different camera systems at the machines to identify weeds in row crops and in cereals. Band spraying as well as spot application can be a building block to achieve the reduction target.
To summarise, we develop the methods further and test them. In the fungicide sector, we made large-scale tests with biological preparations last year. We noticed positive effects on our fields after the measures. In the zero plots, we noticed a higher disease pressure. Last year, the weather conditions were marked by a cool, wet spring followed by drought and a wet harvest. Due to the drought, the pressure of leaf diseases was not very high. “We noticed an effect of the micro-organisms and we want to develop strategies where micro-organisms support chemical crop care. But we still have to learn a lot and perhaps we will find solutions to adapt the positive experiences from other regions all over the world to our climate conditions. In our opinion, tillage, seeding, choice of variety, nutrient supply as well as mechanical, chemical and in the future biological crop care have to be regarded as a holistic system. We have to find an optimum compromise between the objectives that sometimes are difficult to reconcile (e.g. soil fertility, soil and wind erosion, water-holding capacity etc.).”

Our experiences with CTF


- It is not possible to optimise the poor straw distribution of the combine harvester afterwards, as a cultivation is carried out in the direction of the threshing direction in the system.
- The fields become more and more uneven over the years as the tillage passes are only carried out in the CTF direction.
- Excessively wide machines that create the fewest possible tracks complicate many things and are cost-intensive. 


- With direct seeding, the seed placement can be shifted by a few centimetres, thus ensuring optimum seed placement next to the stubble row of the previous crop.
- Tramlines that always are in the same place are advantageous.
- There are clear tracks on the field for all tasks.
- CTF during the harvest results in fewer tracks (no criss-crossing across the field), especially in wet conditions. This is very advantageous for the subsequent cultivation steps.

Continuous optimisation process

The biggest project at AgroVation is improvement. “Every wet year resp. every wet spring is a challenge as we still have problems with the drainage on many fields. Field boundary maintenance and working on the receiving waters are tasks we still have to carry out“, Constantin Horsch.

“A probably never-ending task is an optimisation of the workflow in view of the constantly changing political, eco-political and economic framework conditions. The weather, too, always makes us deal with new challenges. All these changing conditions give rise to new ideas which then are included in the development of our machines. We use the farm to test and refine new developments and their practical use. The objective is to provide our customers with professional technical solutions in combination with state-of-the-art crop production ideas. Logistics and easy-to-learn, efficient workflows for the employees play a major role in this holistic approach. This is the only way to achieve utmost efficiency.
AgroVation is our test farm for new technical developments in ongoing arable farming under practical conditions. The objective is to develop methods that reconcile soil fertility, sociopolitical requirements and agricultural production with safe yields. Our mission is to share positive experiences in practical farming with our customers and to pass them on.”