Crop information: Upload or overload?

Kevin and Joan Vivian, of Manangatang in the Murray Mallee, farm with, computer to hand. The Vivians’ approach to cropping will feature in the next issue of Ground Cover.

When the harvest contractor hands you a floppy disk or memory card at the end of the day’s harvest, what do you do? Is it a case of “you beaut”, and off to the computer, or “what on earth do I do with this?” and drop it into a drawer together with all the other odds and ends you don’t quite know what to do with?

That disk contains a wealth of data about your crop, and by implication the paddock, its soil, structure and cropping history, all gathered using the technological wonders of Precision Agriculture, based on the US global positioning system (GPS) of satellites constantly orbiting the earth.

Soon every piece of farm equipment (not to mention every car) will be thus equipped, as the cost is not large compared to the base cost of the machinery. The information flow is about to become a veritable flood.

So what to do? You could ask your neighbour or call in a consultant, or perhaps it’s time to learn more about it.

Help is at hand with a new Internet-based course, jointly developed by La Trobe University and Gossamer Communications in Melbourne, and funded by the Rural Industries Research and Development Council (RIRDC). For minimal cost, you can study the technology underlying precision agriculture to help decide how you are going to use the new, more detailed information, and just what you will need to do so.

And you can do the short course on your own farm, at times to suit you, thanks to the Internet. The course costs $30.

Contact: Chris Bell, Gossamer Communications 03 9439 2019, 181 Ryans Road, Eltham North, Vic. 3095, email c.bell@latrobe.edu.au or visit the web site http://www.gossamer.com.au/pfarm and start your journey into the information age of precision farming.