Agronomic research fails to keep up with technology

27 Jun, 2001 10:00 PM
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AGRONOMIC research needs to catch up to technology before farmers can fully embrace the advantages offered by precision agriculture, according to Agwest cropping systems unit manager John Blake.

Speaking at the inaugural precision farming information day at the Dowerin field days' site, Mr Blake said technology had made enormous strides in the last seven years "yet we haven't come a long way with our agronomy and biology".

Agwest was currently studying whether the production potential from precision agriculture was achievable.

"In our work so far we have identified that there are several constraints to farmers' adoption of technological tools to help them improve paddock variability," he said.

"This includes the ability of the technology to be applied at a site level, the ability of researchers and advisers to quantify, explain and measure variability in data, and how the technology is packaged for farmers to use it".

Mr Blake said there were significant opportunities for farmers to gain from precision agriculture.

"These valuable tools can provide better information on soils and catchment systems, improve mapping and help farmers to identify the real value of their land," he said.

"Ultimately this means that farmers can make better decisions about how to maximise the profitability of their paddocks by matching their production plans with the land's physical capability".

But he warned farmers would have to be prepared to adapt to more precise planning of farming systems to beat mounting challenges.

The WA grains industry had aggressively adopted new farming practices during the last two decades which had resulted in consistent increases in productivity.

But there were real challenges ahead to maintain these gains, such as the influence of commodity prices, the risk of salinity and managing soil fertility.

"It seems clear that to remain competitive and sustainable, farmers must get smarter about production systems," he said.

"They need to use information about the system more effectively to enable it to tune into the environment in which it operates.

"To achieve this, farming systems must adapt more precisely to the agricultural land resource".

Mr Blake said the emergence of precision farming and guidance systems would enable farmers to manage paddock viability on a hectare by hectare basis.

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