Decision tool shows promise in local crop trials
Author: Natalie Lee | Date: 27 May 2013
A research project in the Great Southern region has demonstrated that the decision tool Yield Prophet® could help local growers maximise crop yields and minimise risks associated with management decisions.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Agribusiness Trial Extension Network project, conducted by ConsultAg, characterised two dominant soil types within each area covered by grower groups the Fitzgerald Biosphere Group and Lakes Information & Farming Technology (LIFT), located near Jerramungup and Lake Grace.
Ben Whisson, of ConsultAg, said the one-year project aimed to refine the local accuracy of the decision support system (DSS) and its forecasts.
Yield Prophet® is a web interface which uses the computer simulation model APSIM (Agricultural Production Systems Simulator) and paddock specific soil, crop and climate data to generate information about the likely outcomes of farming decisions.
“Following a number of extremely variable seasons, many growers in the region have lacked the confidence to implement management practices to maximise yields, and have been taking an approach of ‘less risk’ for their in-season decision making,” Mr Whisson said.
“Our trials showed that, although it has its weaknesses, Yield Prophet® can potentially help growers achieve higher yields by taking into account current and historical seasonal conditions.
“The lack of homogenous soil types in the Great Southern has presented a challenge to the model in this area and it is imperative that these soil types are correctly characterised to increase the accuracy of the tool’s forecasts.”
Mr Whisson said the benefit of Yield Prophet® to local growers over the course of the season was obvious, especially when it came to making nitrogen and fungicide decisions based on forecast yield, as well as providing side benefits such as yield estimates for insurance purposes.
“At three of the four sites, the yield forecasts were quite accurate, with the Yield Prophet® predictions being within 20 per cent of actual crop yields,” he said.
“This is sufficiently accurate to allow growers to make management decisions based on the forecasts.
“Yield Prophet® was least accurate at a site where the crop suffered from staggered germination as well as a significant frost event, with a difference of 0.5 tonnes per hectare being recorded at this site between the model’s forecasts and actual yields.”
Mr Whisson said the benefits of Yield Prophet® were not just applicable to the farmers who hosted sites.
“Due to the careful consideration of soil types chosen, the results were extended and relevant to a number of growers with similar soils types in the region,” he said.
Mr Whisson said the project also encouraged growers to dig and sample the soil at depth to measure what was happening below the soil surface, including looking at rooting depth.
“It increased awareness of what is going on below the top 10cm of the soil,” he said.
Growers who want more information about the project can contact Mr Whisson on email@example.com
The project’s results are in addition to those obtained from collaborative 2012 GRDC Regional Cropping Solutions Network (RCSN) investments into new Yield Prophet® sites in the Albany port zone and eastern areas of the Kwinana port zone (complementing a number of Department of Agriculture (DAFWA) sites across the grainbelt).
To access reports generated from these RCSN projects, contact RCSN coordinator Julianne Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo caption: Ashton Gray, of ConsultAg, left, and host farmer Alex Duckworth, of Lake Grace, at one of the new Yield Prophet® sites established by ConsultAg in the Great Southern region.
Ben Whisson, ConsultAg
0428 651 626
Natalie Lee, senior consultant, Cox Inall Communications
08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827