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Precision agriculture demystified

Australia: Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) and Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM), Queensland, Australia teamed with Precision Cropping Technologies to present central region workshops at Banana and Emerald in Queensland aimed at demystifying precision agriculture (PA) technology.

PA offers farmers a suite of technologies that are capable of measuring and monitoring the variability in crop performance and yield across a range of land types. The uptake of precision agriculture technologies such as yield mapping and high resolution remote sensing satellite imagery by the farming community throughout Central Queensland’s 600,000 hectare cropping belt could be best described as cautious.

In the Central Queensland (CQ) workshops, there were total 18 growers and agricultural consultants and the dominant issue raised was the perception that PA software technologies were viewed as not being user-friendly.

These were the first of a series of six Grains Research and Development-funded workshops designed to assist farmers to manage paddock variability by taking the next step toward adopting zonal management techniques to address production issues.

Darren Aisthorpe, DEEDI Agri-Science Queensland development extension officer, said, “Growers can outlay big dollars on PA systems but to get started, there is no need to invest in all the available PA tools and imagery. There is ample evidence to show that Central Queensland growers adopting PA and remote sensing technology can boost their earning capacity. Growers are historically aware of within-field crop yield variability but throwing more fertiliser at a problem sector to increase yield is not going to resolve an underlying subsoil constraint which limits plant available water capacity. Increased yield does not always equal increased profit – the real focus needs to be on the return per hectare profit line.”

Further, Aisthorpe added that PA monitoring technologies were simply tools growers could use to improve farm efficiency by measuring “where” and “how much” crop production varies across fields, across the farm and from season to season. It is possible to measure crop and soil variability using any one of a number of technologies including yield mapping, satellite, aerial and in-crop imagery and electromagnetic induction (EM38 mapping). The crucial next step is to then understand why that variation occurs and what management techniques will optimise returns for each variation. Farmers can then make a realistic assessment of the practicality of zonal management using variable rate application techniques.

Source: Queensland Country Life