Precision Agriculture in the Western Plains
In the Western Plains area of NSW, where this project is located, water is usually the limit to crop production. This project will look at the interplay of soil and rainfall within paddocks. This interplay determines the amount of water available to the crop and therefore the maximum amount of grain which can be produced. As an example, lighter sandier soils will often produce higher yields in years when the rain comes in many small amounts whereas heavier clay soils will produce higher yields in years of fewer heavier falls when there is greater reliance on stored moisture. An accurate assessment of these and other factors allows a primary producer to better understand their property and its capability.
With this understanding, the producer can:
- plant the best amount and type of seed using the optimum amount of fertiliser to take advantage of the available water;
- apply soil improving materials such as lime or gypsum where they are needed or will do the most good,
GPS referenced mapping of crop and soil characteristics allows primary producers to better understand the capability of their properties
- have the capacity to quickly assess and respond to variability in rainfall and other factors, and
- recognise and respond in a timely way to emerging weed, pest and disease outbreaks.
A second focus of the project is on identifying which characteristics to measure and developing the tools to measure them so that primary producers can divide their paddocks into practical management zones such that the relevant soil characteristics within each zone are relatively uniform but different to the characteristics of other zones.
Managing each zone in the optimum way allows the primary producer to minimise any negative impacts that could occur from over-application of seed, fertiliser or chemical while increasing sustainable profitability through making maximum use of the limited available water.