Grains Research and Development

Date: 01.04.2014

Targeted approach vital to make PA pay

Author: Natalie Lee

Precision agriculture (PA) is becoming simpler and cheaper to use but should still only be used to address specific agronomic issues on-farm, says a Western Australian expert.

SEPWA project officer Nigel Metz says growers should use PA only to target a particular agronomic problem or problems in their farming system.

“Grain growers should not rush into PA for the sake of doing PA,” said South East Premium Wheat Growers Association (SEPWA) project officer Nigel Metz.

PA is the precise application of practices to improve farm productivity and profitability and typically uses Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to define parts of a paddock for different treatments.

Mr Metz is running a series of mobile device and precision agriculture (PA) training workshops supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

They aim to improve the skills of farmers, agronomists and industry people so they are able to integrate mobile technologies and simple, low-cost PA methods into their businesses.

Mr Metz said that despite improvements in technologies which had simplified the transfer and display of farm information, PA still required time and effort to implement.

“Growers should use PA only to target a particular agronomic problem or problems in their farming system, whether that is soil acidity, toxicity or over-application of fertiliser,” he said.

“If an issue has been identified, PA can be used to spatially define the affected area and manage the problem, such as by varying input rates.

“Without a targeted approach, growers run the risk of spending too much time on PA and compromising the fundamentals of their farm business.”

Mr Metz invites people to contact him on nigel@sepwa.org.au if they have a local group of 10 to 15 people interesting in having a workshop in their area.

WA growers interested in PA can also find out more information in a comprehensive new reference guide published by the GRDC.

Applying PA - A reference guide for the modern practitioner identifies and describes a commonsense approach to utilise available spatially-based technology as part of an effort to maximise whole-farm profitability.

Publication of the guide complements GRDC’s investment portfolio which is helping to increase the adoption of PA through training and projects developing resources that fill the knowledge gap between research and commercial application of PA on-farm.

The reference guide is available for viewing and downloading via the GRDC website at www.grdc.com.au/ApplyingPA and hard copies are available through GRDC’s Ground Cover Direct service by phoning 1800 110044 or by emailing ground-cover-direct@canprint.com.au.

GRDC Project Code SEP00012, PCT00001

Region West, National, North, South