Electronics must meet farmers' expectations

27 Jun, 2001 10:00 PM
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THE farm electronics industry will need to ensure it meets farmers' expectations as it leads the industry into precision agriculture.

Kondinin Group agricultural engineer Ben White accurately identified the reason farmers did not rush to embrace precision agriculture at last week's precision farming information day.

Posing the question to the audience about whether they should wait for more advances, he said farmers needed to look for compatibility between controllers and the equipment they plugged into and also ensure good service and back-up was available.

"But if you have the right gear you can start saving money immediately, particularly with a guidance system that will cut out overlap costs," he said.

"You've got to be comfortable with the system you get and how it can be integrated into your farming system".

Other speakers provided various angles on what undoubtedly will become the way to farm in the future.

Agwest cropping systems unit manager John Blake said guidance systems provided farmers with new opportunities for row cropping and tramline farming, while mapping software would enable more selective use of chemicals and herbicides.

"The next quantum leap in farming could come from the difference between input and output efficiencies across paddocks," he said.

"Variable rate application technology will enable farmers to grow more uniform crops through better targeting of fertiliser".

According to Corrigin farmer Richard Barrett, who has been using Precision Farming Australia guidance systems for two years, benefits include the ability to increase night spraying programs.

"It has been particularly useful for spraying melons at night and reducing overlaps," he said. "The next biggest windfall will be to improve self-steering accuracy".

Mingenew farmer Miles Obst has had experience with guidance systems in controlled traffic farming and this year sowed 2500ha using a Beeline hands-free navigation system.

"Where we sow it's doing a terrific job in end-to-end sowing," he said.

One of the hitches was an inability to complete his whole program with the system because of poor signal strength on parts of the farm.

Corrigin spraying contractor Rob McMiles saw major advantages using controllers in the light of future environmental legislation.

"Farmers and contractors will have detailed recordings of operations in each paddock with time and date and the type and rate of chemical used," he said.

"I can see that future legislation will demand accurate documentation.

"It also will end arguments about exactly how a paddock was sprayed".

Mr McMiles also told the audience that another technological breakthrough related to spraying was infra-red weed detect systems.

"And it won't be too far down the track when robotic sprayers become the norm," he said. "The farmer will track its progress on a computer in the farm office".

For consulting engineer Ed Blanchard, more meaningful management decisions will be made with the use of information from precision software.

"It will give farmers a far better picture of their enterprise and over time decisions can be made to cut out poorer performing paddocks," he said.

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