Hasten cautiously into new technology

Richard Barrett yield mapping during the 1995-96 harvest

Mark Perger is looking at the benefits of precision farming for Western Australian graingrowers as part of a GRDC research scholarship.

Mr Perger, at Muresk Institute of Agriculture, said farmers needed to view precision farming as more than just a new piece of technology which they can adopt based on proven economic benefits.

"Too many people wrongly assume that a yield map will automatically lead to greater profits through variable fertiliser application rates. "This assumption is fundamentally flawed because there are more than 20 factors which can affect yield and quality apart from nutrient availability.

Yield maps are only the first step in determining how production can be improved on a site-specific basis," he said.

"Yield maps combined with soil, weed and nutrient maps provide a big picture view and a benchmark of what factors could be limiting crop yield and grain quality.

"The biggest challenge in the future for farmers will be knowing what to do once these factors have been identified," he said.