Making paddocks work harder

A satellite-guided precision farming system is undergoing trials in Western Regions. It promises grain farmers in the temperate zone across Australia a way to pinpoint crop yield as it varies within each paddock.

Farmers will be able to maximise yield potential by varying the phosphate, seeding and chemical rates to suit different parts of the paddock.

CSIRO Soils scientist Simon Cook said yields can vary threefold or fourfold within a single paddock. He said the idea of precision farming is to use paddock-by-paddock maps of last year's yield to decide how best to manage the crop in the following year.

A monitor in the harvester is linked to a Global Positioning System which records yield as it varies over the paddock. The maps can then be used to guide variable rate spreaders or sprayers over the same area. Precision farming answers the question: "Will this part of the paddock respond to more fertiliser or am I merely throwing good money after bad?"