The term Precision Agriculture (PA) means different things to different
people. PA is really about using information to help us better match crop
agronomy to the production potential of different parts of a paddock or
farm; the older term "site-specific crop management" perhaps
explains it better.
Until early in the 20th century it was common for croppers to apply site-specific
management, based on their own knowledge of within-paddock variation.
Mechanisation changed all that; it brought huge gains in productivity
and profit - without it, broadacre cropping might not exist today
- but it has also meant large areas are now treated as uniform when
in fact they are not.
As Australian graingrowers have devised better ways to grow crops more
efficiently and to manage erosion, nutrition, disease, weeds, pests and
seasonal variability, variations within paddocks have become a more-important
determinant of profit and sustainability. This "spatial variability"
may reflect differences in soil type and depth, elevation, compaction
or salinity or other restrictions to root growth, weed or disease burden
- or the legacies of past management. Whatever the causes, there
are good examples of growers using PA to lift profit by $10 to $50 per
The basic tools of PA have been available to Australian graingrowers
for more than a decade, but uptake has been slow. In response to this,
and to the growing interest by growers in PA, the GRDC established in
2002-03 a National Precision Agriculture Initiative (SIP09).
This aims to further develop practical PA methods for use by Australian
growers, evaluating and demonstrating those methods in different cropping
regions and systems, and providing education and training information
about the practical use of PA. it comprises 10 projects where growers
and researchers are working closely together to make the promise of PA
For more information: Phil Price, consultant to GRDC Agronomy, Soils
and Environment Program, 02 6251 4669, email@example.com