THE GROWING Precision Agriculture (PA) movement received a significant boost with the GRDC's recent announcement of new and wide-ranging R&D investments totalling more than $5 million over five years.
To recap for those growers who are still wondering what PA has to offer: graingrowing soils vary across paddocks but the general practice to date has been to manage these as though variations do not exist - for example, by applying consistent fertiliser or seeding rates across paddocks. PA has the potential to allow farmers to apply optimum levels of inputs to different areas within paddocks.
According to the GRDC's Sustainable Farming Systems Program Consultant, Phil Price, PA technology includes the use of tools such as:
- crop yield monitors in harvesters which are linked to GPS equipment to pinpoint higher- and lower-yielding areas in paddocks
- electromagnetic soil surveying equipment able to assist in the mapping of areas in paddocks where subsoil constraints to production, such as salinity, exist
- soil surveys and tests to identify the causes of yield variations
- computer equipment and software to produce maps showing higher- and lower-yielding zones and areas with different gross margins
- variable-rate equipment such as seeders and sprayers able to apply different rates of inputs within paddocks.
"Essentially PA technology enables farmers to better match land use with land capability," Dr Price said. "But it is a developing technology and the primary goal of the GRDC's investment initiative is to assist in this development so that practical PA systems are available to growers to improve profitability and environmental sustainability.
"The PA work fits in well with research into the nature and extent of subsoil constraints to production."
Dr Price said nine PA projects have been contracted or are under development across a geographical spread from Queensland to WA. Projects range from basic and applied research to training and development and encompass traditional grain-growing as well as controlled-traffic and raised-bed farming.
To date, the work is being carried out, with close involvement of farmers and farmer groups, by agencies including CSIRO Land and Water, Victorian Department of Natural Resources and Environment, CTF Projects Pty Ltd, and the Australian Centre for Precision Agriculture - University of Sydney.
Program 4 Contact: Dr Phil Price 02 62514669