Precision agriculture discussed at northern updates

26 Feb, 2011 04:00 AM
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Curtin University lecturer and researcher Roger Mandel.
Curtin University lecturer and researcher Roger Mandel.

GROWERS attending Regional Crop Updates in Buntine and Port Denison will learn about practical tools which could help them adopt precision agriculture (PA) and variable rate technology (VRT) farming methods.

Other Regional Crop Updates in WA’s Northern Agricultural Region during March will be held at Geraldton and Badgingarra.

They are part of a series of 13 events throughout the grainbelt, supported by the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

Curtin University lecturer and researcher Roger Mandel will address the Buntine and Port Denison Updates on the topic ‘What’s preventing growers from implementing PA? – and how do we do it anyway’.

The findings are the result of GRDC funded research conducted by agencies, also including CSIRO, over the past seven years.

Dr Mandel said about 20 per cent of WA growers currently used some form of variable rate fertiliser application – up from about 5 per cent a few years ago.

But many growers had not adopted VRT because they were frustrated by the technology and lacked the necessary support.

Dr Mandel said he and other researchers had worked with early adopters of VRT and PA systems to gain insights into the needs of growers.

“We are now more aware of what is preventing them from implementing this technology on their farms and some of the tools we believe can help the adoption process,” he said.

“The two major barriers to adoption of PA relate to hardware, and software and data analysis.

“Investment into precision agriculture research by the GRDC has led to the development of practical tools – including the PA investment calculator - to help growers make decisions about factors including PA investment, VRT applications and soil sampling.”

As well as precision agriculture, some other topics to be covered at the Buntine event – coordinated by the Liebe Group – include spading and ploughing of non-wetting soils; the economics of livestock compared with cropping; fallowing; and NVT trials results for wheat and canola.

The Port Denison event, coordinated by the Mingenew Irwin Group, will cover topics including new weather forecasting tools; the potential for a horticulture precinct; an update on GRDC research from panellist Merrie Carlshausen; and fertiliser strategies.

Included on the agenda of the West Midlands Group’s Updates at Badgingarra are an update on the recent harvest and grain marketing; water repellence research; pasture cropping; and stubble and wind-row management.

The DAFWA-organised Update at Geraldton will address issues including the North East Agricultural Region (NEAR) project to help farmers cope with dry seasons; the effects of summer rain on the following year’s crop, including its influence on water repellency; results from trials of the Harrington Seed Destructor; and lupin agronomy.

Upcoming updates

  • March 1: Badgingarra Community Centre
  • March 2: Buntine Hall
  • March 3: Port Denison Sea Rescue building, Dongara
  • March 4: DAFWA office in Geraldton
  • Other WA Regional Crop Updates will be held at Corrigin – March 8, Cunderdin and Ravensthorpe – March 9, Wickepin and Esperance – March 10, Green Range – March 14, Kojonup – March 15, Williams - March 16and finishing in Moorine Rock on March 23.

    GRDC western panel chairman Neil Young urged growers to attend the events.

    “The Regional Crop Updates allow growers to hear about new research information more quickly, and to consider how the results might fit into their farming systems,” he said.

    “They are also an opportunity for growers to meet up with other farmers interested in running their businesses better.”

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