Farming takes new shape with eConnect

26 Jun, 2016 02:00 AM
Department of Agriculture and Food project officer Chad Reynolds talks about the department's new eConnected Grainbelt Project to farmers attending the Yuna Farm Improvement Group's post emergent field day walk.
Department of Agriculture and Food project officer Chad Reynolds talks about the department's new eConnected Grainbelt Project to farmers attending the Yuna Farm Improvement Group's post emergent field day walk.

THE Department of Agriculture and Food's (DAFWA) eConnected Grainbelt Project is up and running.

And at last week's Yuna Farm Improvement Group's (YFIG) post-emergent field walk, DAFWA project officer Chad Reynolds provided an update to farmers.

DAFWA is working with 14 grower groups hosting 11 eDemonstration sites throughout the Wheatbelt, including one site on the property of YFIG member Jason Batten.

Mr Reynolds said the project aim was to help farmers make informed input decisions throughout the season.

A weather station and moisture probe is being installed on Mr Batten's property this week and support tools will include Yield Prophet, iPaddock Yield, Productionwise Crop Tracker, Broken Stick (modified French and Schultz), Soil Water app, N Braodacre app, NUlogic nitrogen model and a Spectur camera.

Other grower groups involved include Corrigin Farm Improvement Group; Facey Group, Wickepin; Far East Agricultural Research Group, Moorine Rock; Merredin and Districts Farm Improvement Group; Mingenew Irwin Group; South East Premium Wheat Growers' Association, Esperance; Southern DIRT, Kojonup and West Arthur Trials Group, Darkan; Stirlings to Coast Farmers, Mount Barker; Gillamii Centre, Cranbrook; West Midlands Group, Dandaragan; Wheatbelt Natural Resource Management, Northam and Mullewa Dryland Farming Initiative.

Each site is fully instrumented with an automatic weather station and soil moisture probes at no cost to the grower group.

According to DAFWA, the eConnected Grainbelt project is different to others in that it is seeking involvement from growers, consultants and agri-business to ensure decision support tools, systems and technologies developed by the project meet industry needs.

Mr Reynolds said the targeted paddock on Mr Batten's property north east of Yuna was sown on May 18 to Mace wheat at 60 kilograms/hectare with 40kg/ha DAP and 40 litres/ha Flexi-N.

Soil test data (sampled on April 4) revealed a pH range between 5.8 (0-10cm) and 7.8 (70-100cm) with phosphorous levels rated "good" in the topsoil and "very high" in subsurface layers.

All the support tool mentioned above are being used.

Recently updated information on the trial site by DAFWA project leader Robert Alderman has Yield Prophet forecasting a below yield potential of less than 1tonne/ha with a sowing application of 24kg/ha of nitrogen (N).

Mr Alderman said Yield Prophet can be used to model the effect of different timing and amount of nitrogen applications on yield.

The baseline is 24 units of N at seeding (7kg/ha N in compound and 40L/ha Flexi-N).

The scenario has an extra 12.5 units of BN applied also at seeding (compound plus 70L/ha of Flexi-N) and the third has a top-up of 20 units of N on June 30.

The corresponding yields at 50pc probability are 0.9t/ha, 1.25t/ha and 1.75t/ha respectively.

A nitrogen profit report also can be run on Yield Prophet to estimate likely returns of different N scenarios.

Yield Prophet also models soil water dynamics and recent rainfall events in the paddock have significantly recharged the topsoil but have not filled the whole soil profile.

A mid-May graph showed plant available water (PAW) between 250-800mm and a PAW deficit between 0 and 250 millimetres.

A mid June graph revealed a PAW reading below expected rooting depth.

Another tool is iPaddock Yield, developed by Esperance farmer Mic Fels, and based on historical rainfall and how well that farming system/soil has converted rainfall to yield.

The mid-May report showed a forecast of 1.5t/ha as of April 30 while a mid-June report showed 2.3t/ha as of June 14.

The Broken Stick model is currently predicting a yield on Mr Batten's paddock of 1.4t/ha.

Broken Stick has been created by several people based on the work of CSIRO researcher Yvette Oliver.

Ms Oliver has modified the French and Schultz equation to better predict yield, especially when infrequent large rainfall events saturate the profile and water is lost below the crops' rooting depth.

It requires farmers to estimate a bucket size based on soil type and rooting depth entering summer and winter rainfall (for example, November to June) and recording expectations of rainfall for the rest of the growing season.

"The advantage of this method is like iPaddock Yield in that it works off your farm's rainfall, not the nearest weather station with historical data," Ms Oliver said.

"And unlike any other models, you can enter your expected rainfall or different rainfall scenarios."

Ken Wilson

Ken Wilson

is Farm Weekly's machinery writer


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