Precision Ag in a Tough Season in Australia

This year’s summer crop season has been a tough one for most growers in Australia. Prolonged periods of high temperatures and a distinct lack of in-crop rain in most areas have caused the sky-high expectations at the beginning of the season to come down as the season progressed. On top of this, some areas received rain from cyclone Debbie just as harvesting was about to start, making a mediocre year even worse.

All broad acre summer crops were affected, but some more than others. Most irrigated crops still produced, but did consume a lot more water than usual and yielded less than average. Some mung beans that flowered during the peak of the heatwave were left with little to no pods at all, whereas some early cotton crops in central Queensland were not affected at all and produced great yields. Dryland crops however suffered with very few exceptions; for most crops and in most areas, it is a season to quickly forget.

When a season like this comes along, the topic of precision ag, and the investment therein, gets raised often. So how does a below-average season change the equation? Of course, there is the cash-flow available for investment to consider, which is most likely below par after such a season, but also the premise of precision ag itself. Does it pay to be precise in a marginal season? When a sorghum, cotton or bean crop gets removed from the field by a mulcher instead of a harvester, it is easy to conclude that every dollar spent on previously precision equipment to plant, spray or fertilize this field is wasted in this case. But is it? Or was not enough money invested?

If we look at the first operation in the life-cycle of growing a crop, planting, it is quite obvious from all the new product offerings out there that precision ag is the flavor of the day. And with a very good reason, even in a dry season. When conditions turn dry, plants need every little bit of moisture available within their root zone. Traditionally, we often see growers planting more seeds per meter than they actually need just so they “don’t get those big gaps.” But this automatically means you will also get a lot more seeds placed close together in the majority of the field. This in turn means that there is less moisture available per plant when the field dries out, which affects yield and quality in every scenario.

When a grower plants with precision equipment, he can accurately set his desired rate and be confident that the seeds get placed where he wants them to. So when, for example, a drier-than-average season gets predicted, the sowing rate can be brought down as much as needed, without having to worry about possible large gaps in the plant stand. An added benefit of being able to lower your planting rate is a decrease in seed costs, which for some crops can be quite substantial.

Fertilizing is another such operation that is well-served by adding a layer of precision to the operation. Where traditionally a lot of fertilizer was applied up-front and with a blanket rate, it has been shown to have significant negative effects in a dry season. If the in-crop moisture is missing, the fertilizer goes unused in the best-case scenario, but leaches away or causes nitrogen toxicity to plants in worse scenarios. By applying only part of the fertilizer requirements up front and subsequent applications during the season, the amount applied per zone in the field can be tailored to biomass present, nutrients present in the soil or nutrients measured in plant-tissue, to only name a few methods. Next to potentially saving a lot of money in marginal seasons, this can also save your crop from performing even worse than the dry conditions already dictate.

The need for chemical applications during the season can be vastly different from one end of the field to the other. In-crop herbicides, growth regulators, defoliants and fungicides are just some examples of products which can be required at a different rate, depending on how much moisture (if any) was received in a certain part of the field. By dividing the field up in zones by biomass, rainfall data or even just visual differences, the rate of chemical applied can be altered and tailored to the specific zones.

In some cases you might only have to spray a few zones of the field and the rest of the field is best left unsprayed. By using variable rate (VR) technology, you don’t have to make the difficult decision of whether to spray everything or not at all and by doing so not treat part of the field as it should be treated. You can make the right decision for every zone in the field. Using this methodology can not only save you on input costs, but potentially save parts of your crop as well. A good example is a field of cotton where only 80% needs a growth regulator applied and where the other 20% of the crop would get damaged by having any growth regulator at all applied. VR technology can provide both savings in chemical and save part of your crop in this scenario. Speaks for itself, right?

Where dry seasons are a regular occurrence more specific to Australia than some other parts of the world, the issue of marginally profitable seasons is seen everywhere. Whether it be the low commodity prices currently seen everywhere or a cold snap in the U.S. Midwest, precision ag technology can help growers to lower input costs and maximize their opportunity for profitability.

For more information, feel free to contact me at [email protected].

Leave a Reply

International Stories
Resistant-weeds-in-Brazil
InternationalUsing Precision Agriculture to Control Herbicide-Resistant Weeds in Brazil
July 24, 2017
The occurrence of weeds in agricultural fields of grain and fiber production has caused losses to farmers for a long Read More
Yield Data Image
Data ManagementYield Data: More Than a Pretty Picture
July 13, 2017
It is mid-July, which, for the Australian cotton industry, means that picking is still going on for some growers. A Read More
LAP
InternationalLAP and ABPSAP: Advancing Precision Agriculture in Brazil
July 5, 2017
In this article, I would like to highlight two important entities of precision agriculture in Brazil. The first of these Read More
Cotton closeup
Imagery/SensingCotton Growth Management with Precision Agriculture
June 20, 2017
A cotton crop presents some important differences to other commodities that are widely produced in Brazil, such as soybean and Read More
Trending Articles
Resistant-weeds-in-Brazil
InternationalUsing Precision Agriculture to Control Herbicide-Resistant Weeds in Brazil
July 24, 2017
The occurrence of weeds in agricultural fields of grain and fiber production has caused losses to farmers for a long Read More
Yield Data Image
Data ManagementYield Data: More Than a Pretty Picture
July 13, 2017
It is mid-July, which, for the Australian cotton industry, means that picking is still going on for some growers. A Read More
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
ProfessionalsPatience Needed: Lessons for Getting New Tech onto the Farm
July 6, 2017
A popular joke within the tech industry was trotted out at GAI AgTech Week in Boston, MA, speaking volumes about Read More
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
EventsPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
Gavin Newsom Forbes AgTech-Summit
ProfessionalsAgTech Summit Aiming High for Modern Farming Solutions
June 12, 2017
THRIVE AgTech, in partnership with SVG Partners and Forbes, is hosting the third annual Forbes AgTech Summit June 28-29 in Read More
Quantix Drone Farmer
DronesTop 10 Most Intriguing Technologies in Agriculture
June 3, 2017
This may be a bit of stating the obvious here, but we’ll throw it out there anyways: as much as Read More
Latest News
John Deere Headquarters Reuters Eric Thayer
Data ManagementAnother Integration: Deere, Granular Link Up
July 26, 2017
John Deere and Granular announced today a product development and co-marketing agreement that gives John Deere customers more tools to Read More
Senet Network
Sensors/IoTSenet, Sensoterra to Deliver Real-Time Soil Moisture Mo…
July 26, 2017
Senet, a provider of global connectivity and network management for the Internet of Things, and Sensoterra BV, a provider of Read More
AGCO White planter 9800VE
Systems ManagementAGCO to Acquire Precision Planting
July 26, 2017
AGCO and The Climate Corp. announced today that a definitive agreement has been signed for AGCO to acquire the Precision Read More
CNH-and-Trimble-Data-Sharing_1
Data ManagementTrimble, CNH Collaborate on Data Sharing Connectivity
July 26, 2017
Trimble and CNH Industrial, a global leader in agricultural equipment, have announced they are enabling wireless connectivity between Trimble Ag Read More
Imagery/SensingEFC Systems Announces Imagery Delivery Integration with…
July 25, 2017
EFC Systems, Inc. has announced a new integration between its FieldAlytics product and Geosys Bridge API for direct delivery of Read More
Tablet Grower
Data ManagementProspera Raises $15 Million to Transform Farms with Dat…
July 25, 2017
Digital farming company Prospera has announced a $15 million Series B funding round. Qualcomm Ventures, the investment arm of Qualcomm Read More
Resistant-weeds-in-Brazil
InternationalUsing Precision Agriculture to Control Herbicide-Resist…
July 24, 2017
The occurrence of weeds in agricultural fields of grain and fiber production has caused losses to farmers for a long Read More
John-Deere-and-Farm-Dog
Grower Services & SolutionsFarm Dog Strengthens its Integration with John Deere Op…
July 24, 2017
Farm Dog, the leading pest and disease management platform for growers and agronomists, has completed the second stage of its Read More
Industry NewsLindsay Corp. Names Dow’s Timothy Hassinger New C…
July 19, 2017
Lindsay Corp. has  announced the appointment of Timothy Hassinger as president and CEO and a member of its board of Read More
InfoAg 2015
Events2017 Awards of Excellence Winners Announced
July 18, 2017
PrecisionAg Institute is pleased to announce its Awards of Excellence winners for 2017. Honorees of this year’s prestigious award are Read More
Interseeding Cover Crops
ProfessionalsA 3-Step Approach to Interseeding Cover Crops
July 18, 2017
As growers continue to search for opportunities to create healthier soils and increase yields, more trusted advisors and farmers are Read More
Rod Weimer and Paul Schrimpf
Excellence AwardsPast Recipients Of The PrecisionAg Awards Of Excellence
July 18, 2017
Since 2007, the PrecisionAg Insititute has sponsored the annual Awards of Excellence program. Here's a list of the past winners. Read More
Data ManagementEFC Announces FieldAlytics, Adapt-N Expanded Integratio…
July 17, 2017
EFC Systems is pleased to announce an expanded integration between its FieldAlytics product and Agronomic Technology Corp’s Adapt-N nitrogen recommendations Read More
Data ManagementOpinion: Benchmarking in Precision Agriculture is Big S…
July 17, 2017
Benchmarking has become a buzzword in precision agriculture recently and before we get too excited with all of the profound Read More
Yield Data Image
Data ManagementYield Data: More Than a Pretty Picture
July 13, 2017
It is mid-July, which, for the Australian cotton industry, means that picking is still going on for some growers. A Read More
Industry NewsQuick Rewind: Ohio Dealer Talks Deere-Precision Plantin…
July 12, 2017
A few weeks ago I took a quick trip south down I-71 to Central Ohio (for you non-Buckeyes, I-71 runs Read More
DronesSentera Launches Versatile Quad Sensor for Drones
July 12, 2017
Fully Customizable Filters on Sentera Quad Sensor Allow for Unique Crop Health Detection Capabilities Sentera introduces the latest update to Read More
Hortau Irrigation Management Software
Sensors/IoTHortau Named Finalist for CogX Artificial Intelligence …
July 10, 2017
Hortau was recently named a CogX Award finalist in the Best Artificial Intelligence Product in Agriculture category. The awards were Read More