2cm GPS, 5cm topography and 1m satellite imagery drive better on-farm
decisions and management, writes Don Yule.
The Third Australian controlled Traffic Farming conference at Gatton
in Queensland, in July 2005, brought together 104 leading growers from
across Australia and across the grains, cane, cotton and vegetable industries.
The conference reinforced two messages:
Grower presentations at the conference stressed that 10 years" experience
was enough to prove the applications, opportunities and resilience of
controlled traffic for future farming systems.
The mistakes have been made, the lessons learnt. It is now possible to
change to CTF with confidence, and in the most cost-effective and timely
ways for your farm business. "Just do it - the basics have been identified"
became a slogan of the conference.
Also, experience has shown the costs of making wrong decisions during
the development process. Many of these decisions seemed right at the time
but we can now make much better decisions. "Don"t muck about, do it right"
- a second conference slogan.
The CTF "basics" include strategic planning, farm design, paddock layout;
identical wheel tracks and matched equipment widths (controlled traffic
for all machines); zero till and best agronomy. We now need to develop
new agronomy for our new, non-compacted CTF cropping soils.
Currently available IRA technologies include yield monitors, satellite
imagery, topographical surveys, aerial imagery, soil tests for nutrition,
moisture and disease, electromagnetic (EM) surveys and gammaradiometric
(GR) surveys. These technologies are based on global positioning systems
(GPs) and provide spatially accurate, high-intensity data (hundreds to
tens of thousands of data points per hectare). These data can then be
analysed in geographic information systems (GIS) platforms.
The aims of our project are to determine which IRA technologies are valuable
to growers, how they could be delivered to growers and how growers could
IRA technologies fit very well in CTF systems. GPs-based systems are
becoming commonplace. But are the benefits of auto-steer optimised if
you have different wheel tracks across machines or if you go round and
Compaction from random traffic causes enormous loss of production in
the grains industry. "If you can"t see wheel track effects in your paddock,
probably your whole paddock is compacted." All our experience with mechanised
agriculture is based on degraded, compacted soils and the change to CTF
is showing how large those losses are.
Operations on dry soils cause less compaction but the "we always have
dry harvests" story does not make sense. One wheeling is enough, and one
wheeling of damp soil will destroy the repair from years of CTF.
Growers at Gatton reported responses in soil health (compaction repair
and increased biological activity) occurred after one season of CTF, across
a range of soil types. Papers by growers and researchers all pointed towards
valuable outcomes from combining CTF and IRA including:
GPs and auto-steer is at present sold mainly for the benefits of reduced
driver fatigue, less overlap and night operations, but the high level
of accuracy in a welldesigned 2cm GPs CTF system can also drive higher
Higher yield potentials follow from reducing soil degradation and improving
timeliness and management. And it is whole-farm performance that counts,
not just the best paddock.
The conference discussed CTF-related standards. Three-metre wheel tracks
with up to 500mm tyres or tracks and 9m equipment modules work extremely
well in grains systems, because it suits the whole system. The 12m module
may develop over the next few years.
Cane, cotton, vegetable and raised-bed growers baulk at 3m/9m systems
because 2m/8m or 2m/6m systems have been the norm. The increasing use
of grain crops as part of rotations in these industries creates a challenge,
when grain harvesters are typically 3m wheel track. Systems based on the
2m wheel track are needed.
When all components in the system are considered, effective solutions
generally become obvious.
Figure 1: Adding layers of spatial information in a gis suggests causes
of paddock variability and management responses. Here, the 20cm topographic
overlay on an aerial photo (which shows soil types) assists layout design
for raised beds.
Figure 2: Higher resolution means better information, means better
understanding, means better management decisions. From left: 25m pixel
(16 values/ha), 10m pixel (100 values/ ha) and 1m pixel (10,000 values/ha).
GRDC Precision Agriculture Initiative (SIP09)
GRDC Research Code: CTF00002
For more information: Dr Don Yule, CTF Solutions, 07 3871 0359 or 0427
113 127, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conference papers can be found at www.ctfsolutions.com.au
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