Ground Cover Supplement : GC Supplement - Precision Agriculture
PRECISION AGRICULTURE GROUND COVER ADOPTION 3 VARIABLE RATE (VR) application of fertiliser is a key practice that will underpin the maintenance of a profitable grains industry in Australia in the face of rising costs. While past surveys have indicated a low rate of adoption of VR by Australian grain growers, adoption is now occurring rapidly. Four surveys collected detailed information on the nature and reasoning behind the use of various forms of the technology in Australia. One survey was national, covering all grain-growing regions, and three were smaller regional surveys. The responses from more than 1000 participants were analysed by a team from CSIRO and Curtin University of Technology. The national survey showed 20 per cent of grain growers have adopted some form of variable rate application of fertiliser. In different regions this figure varied from 11 to 35 per cent. This level of adoption is up significantly from less than five per cent recorded six years ago. However, adopters of variable rate are more likely to have larger farms with a higher percentage of cropped area. Many non-adopters are convinced of the agronomic and economic benefits, suggesting adoption will occur in the future. A significant proportion of growers are managing within-paddock variability with manually operated systems, rather than more sophisticated on-the-go VR technology. Many are adopting some form of VR fertiliser application without first collecting yield maps, preferring to use soil tests, electromagnetic induction or their own knowledge of soil and yield variation to define management zones for VR fertiliser management. The rate of adoption is expected to continue to rise, based on greater awareness of the benefits. Commonly cited constraints to adoption were technical issues with equipment and software. This was compounded by the lack of service provision and the fact that use of VR equipment is often incompatible with the existing farm operations of many non-adopters. Developing the capacity of the grains industry to market, deploy and service precision agriculture (PA) equipment and to provide data analysis and management services will help overcome these constraints. Other priorities for research and development identified by the survey included the provision of rapid and cheap methods for diagnosing the causes of yield variation and development of simple approaches for on-farm trialling. These issues, to a greater or lesser extent, are already being addressed by GRDC investments, as reported in this Ground Cover supplement. These surveys were part of several projects supported by the GRDC and other funding bodies to help establish the adoption of technology and farming practices by grain growers, including the use of PA. Such surveys are vital for making informed decisions about the future direction of research and extension investment. □ GRDC Research Code CSA00016 More information: Dr Michael Robertson, group leader, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, 08 9333 6461, firstname.lastname@example.org www.grdc.com.au/CSA00016 ADOPTION NEED NOT BE COMPLICATED The use of variable rate fertiliser is now increasing and is expected to continue to grow More and more within- paddock variation is being managed. Goondiwindi grower Robert Woods is using PA to optimise his farm management. PHOTO: BRAD COLLIS ADOPTERS OF VARIABLE RATE ARE MORE LIKELY TO HAVE LARGER FARMS.
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