Precision Ag Technology Making a Difference in Brazil

Soybean cotton corn Brazil
Large flat areas cultivated with soybean, corn and cotton in Mato Grosso, Midwest Brazil.

Editor’s note: Rodrigo Trevisan is Coordinator of Precision Agriculture at Terra Santa Agro in Brazil, where he is responsible for the development of projects related to precision ag on more than 180,000 hectares cultivated with soybean, corn and cotton. In the article below, Rodrigo shares some of his career highlights and provides an overview of how precision agriculture technology is being used by his company, as well as some of the challenges they are facing. In future articles, he will provide more details of the adoption of each of the technologies mentioned.

As a son of farmers who came to Mato Grosso in 1998, I have always been involved in agriculture. During my undergraduate course in Agronomy, held at the Federal University of Mato Grosso in Sinop, I was able to combine my ease of learning mathematics and the passion for soil science, starting to work with geostatistics and spatial variability of soil attributes and crop yield.

The subject aroused my interest so much that I decided to pursue a master’s degree in the area, attending the University of São Paulo-ESALQ. I worked extensively with precision agriculture and was advised by Professor José Paulo Molin, who is one of the leading experts in the subject in Brazil. Although the university was in Piracicaba – SP, I maintained my contact with Midwest Brazil by conducting cotton experiments in the Goáis and Mato Grosso states. The focus of the experiments was the calibration and validation of an algorithm for application of nitrogen fertilizers in cotton using active crop canopy sensors.

After that, I returned to Mato Grosso two years ago to work as precision agriculture coordinator for Terra Santa Agro S/A (www.terrasantaagro.com), which cultivates about 185,000 hectares (460,000 acres) with soybean, corn and cotton. At that time, precision agriculture was beginning to be developed in the company by contracting outsourced services for soil fertility mapping and applying lime in variable rates in a small percentage of the area.

From then on a project was defined to adopt new technologies and expand the use of precision agriculture tools, with the objective of reaching 100% of the cropland by 2020. The first stage of the project consisted of a survey of the history of the areas, focused on identification of the level of spatial variability to define the most appropriate tools to be adopted. This process was carried out mainly with the help of satellite imagery and knowledge of the areas by experienced professionals. This historical series of images, covering the period from 1984 to 2015, was also the basis for the delineation of management zones, mainly used for soil sampling.

Besides the use of satellite imagery, the characterization of the spatial variability of the fields also uses soil electrical conductivity (TERRAM – Falker) and active crop canopy sensors (N – Sensor – Yara), in addition to soil sampling and georeferenced field scouting.

Soil sampling is carried out in grids on the fields that will receive soil tillage and lime application in the next season, which represents annually around 20% of the area. The number and locations of the samples are defined according to the information available on the spatial variability of the field, usually the final density is 3 to 5 hectares per sample. The other fields are sampled using management zones, which usually range from 30 to 50 hectares.

The data obtained by soil sampling are the basis for the localized application of lime and fertilizers. In some cases, these data are associated with denser data, such as those of soil electrical conductivity for the variable rate seeding prescriptions.

In corn and cotton we also apply variable rate nitrogen fertilizers, based on the spatial variability detected by the N-Sensor or by recent satellite images. In this case we use the images provided by PlanetLabs, mainly the RapidEye and the 4-band PlanetScope scenes.

In cotton we are also applying nematicides to the planting furrow at variable rates. For this we rely on data from a georeferenced pest and disease monitoring system, associated with yield maps and satellite images of previous crops.

One of the major difficulties we have encountered is related to the adoption of yield mapping, especially for soybeans. This is because not all machines are equipped with the required sensors. Even those that are, did not have the required maintenance over time. In addition to the mechanical problems, we have the difficulty of keeping the header width constant and the large number of maneuvers due to the number of machines (usually 10 to 20) simultaneously harvesting the same field. Ensuring the correct calibration and cleaning of all sensors in a hurrying operation is a major challenge.

Another challenge we face is the lack of results and models for generation of the prescriptions of variable rates of nitrogen and seeds. In this case the crop responses depend a lot on the climatic conditions, the date of planting and the genetic materials used. The way we are trying to solve this problem involves the generation of data for our conditions, through on-farm trials and the repetition of treatments in each management zone in the field. These experiments also make it possible to estimate the profitability that can be obtained with the use of different precision agriculture tools at different levels of field variability, serving as a guide for the direction of new investments.

In future articles I will present some examples and better explain the details of the adoption of each of the technologies mentioned above.

Leave a Reply

Americas Stories
Resistant-weeds-in-Brazil
AmericasUsing 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
LAP
AmericasLAP 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
Agrihub-featured
AmericasAgriHub: Connecting Brazilian Producers to Technologies Worldwide
May 30, 2017
Ever since I started writing articles for PrecisionAg.com, I have received many emails from companies and investors from around the Read More
Nematodes in cotton
AmericasUsing Precision Agriculture to Manage Nematodes in Brazil
May 22, 2017
As promised in my first article, this month I am writing about some technical aspects related to the use of Read More
Trending Articles
John-Deere-labs
Tools & Smart EquipmentHow John Deere’s New AI Lab Is Designing Farm Equipment for a More Sustainable Future
September 15, 2017
On a block in San Francisco’s SoMa district, near LinkedIn’s headquarters and dozens of startups, a 180-year-old company best-known for Read More
BASF Maglis grower retailer tablet
Data ManagementWhat Will Happen to My Data? Understanding Your Rights in Precision Agriculture
September 12, 2017
The use of precision agriculture-based decision making to determine fertilizer rates and hybrid types and planting rates is becoming more Read More
Robotics/Labor SaversBlue River, Deere Deal Will Accelerate Farm Robot Innovation
September 11, 2017
No, Blue River Co-founder and CEO Jorge Heraud has not been deposed — Gaddafi-style — by big, bad corporate overlord Read More
Farming at Sunset
Business ManagementAgtech Issues: The Shiny Object Syndrome
September 6, 2017
Do you remember those cartoons where someone lures someone else by placing a piece of candy, small amount of money, Read More
AgQuip overview
Australia/New ZealandAgQuip 2017 Displays New Ag Technology in Australia
August 28, 2017
The annual AgQuip field days took place in Gunnedah, NSW on August 22-24. Being the largest agricultural field days in Read More
Agri-AFC-cotton-baler
Business ManagementBringing a Southern Sensibility to Precision Agriculture
August 7, 2017
Amy Winstead considers herself blessed to have gotten in on the ground floor of precision ag adoption in the Southeast. Read More
Latest News
Farmer with iPad
Australia/New ZealandAgrian Expands into Australia
September 20, 2017
In line with a familiar growth trajectory, Agrian Inc. is moving into Australia with a physical support and sales presence Read More
Robotics Specialty Crops
EventsPrecision in Specialty Crops Gains Momentum
September 20, 2017
When John Deere acquired Blue River Technologies (BRT) recently, BRT’s See & Spray technology received plenty of play. Yet many Read More
Decision Support SoftwareSyngenta Helps Lead Efforts for Farm Management Softwar…
September 19, 2017
Ag data from tractors, combines, planters, and other farm machinery present a huge opportunity for growers to manage their operations Read More
Petra-Andren-Cicada-Innovations
Australia/New ZealandGrowLab’s Rocket Fuel for AgTech in Australia
September 19, 2017
Despite its superpower status as a producer and exporter of agricultural goods and services, up until now Australia has had Read More
CropIn-Team-Photo-credit-BW-Disrupt
AsiaCropIn Aims to be a Global Leader in AgTech Sector
September 19, 2017
Krishna Kumar created AgTech startup, CropIn Technology in 2010, along with co-founders Kunal Prasad and Chittranjan Jena. The trio went Read More
China-Beidou-Navigation-Satellite-System
AsiaChina’s Navigation System Gets Powerful Chip to I…
September 18, 2017
A new powerful chip technology has been introduced in China’s national satellite navigation system to provide high-precision positioning, according to Read More
Tablet Grower
Industry NewsFieldReveal Names Hesse New CEO
September 18, 2017
Matt Hesse has been selected as the Chief Executive Officer of FieldReveal, a newly launched joint venture formed to deliver Read More
John-Deere-labs
Tools & Smart EquipmentHow John Deere’s New AI Lab Is Designing Farm Equipment…
September 15, 2017
On a block in San Francisco’s SoMa district, near LinkedIn’s headquarters and dozens of startups, a 180-year-old company best-known for Read More
Wheat sunrise
Australia/New ZealandSparkLabs Group Launches an Agricultural Tech Accelerat…
September 15, 2017
SparkLabs Group, which claims to be the largest startup accelerator group in Asia, is stepping into agricultural tech with a Read More
Sensors/IoTCollaboration Leverages Internet of Things, Sensors in …
September 15, 2017
The vision of having license-free community sensor networks for agricultural users has made a giant leap closer to reality. A Read More
Young Corn Field
Data ManagementPurdue Online Tool to Help Farmers Make Precision Decis…
September 14, 2017
An innovative online tool developed by a Purdue University engineering professor will allow farmers to process data collected from their Read More
forbes-agtech-summit
Precision IrrigationImproving Water Management: Can Silicon Valley Help?
September 13, 2017
I recently attended the Forbes AgTech Summit in Salinas, CA, where roughly 50 start-up companies originating from Silicon Valley and Read More
Nate-Dorsey-Field-Trial-Curve-Compensation
Systems ManagementField Trial: Precision Application and Curve Compensati…
September 13, 2017
Several months ago I wrote an article about curve compensation in planters and how these systems can help create more Read More
Diamondback moth
Tools & Smart EquipmentTechAccel Invests in Unique Sprayable RNAi Pesticide Te…
September 12, 2017
TechAccel, the Kansas City-based technology and venture development company, has announced it has awarded the first grant under its “Path Read More
BASF Maglis grower retailer tablet
Data ManagementWhat Will Happen to My Data? Understanding Your Rights …
September 12, 2017
The use of precision agriculture-based decision making to determine fertilizer rates and hybrid types and planting rates is becoming more Read More
Terra
Imagery/SensingAerial Imagery Aids Decision-Making
September 12, 2017
As the growing season has progressed, aerial imagery has been part of the world record setting data-collection efforts for Terra, Read More
Hurricane-satellite-image
Decision Support SoftwareKeeping Things in Perspective: Weather vs. Climate in O…
September 12, 2017
As I write this, we are on the heels of catastrophic flooding in Houston due to Hurricane Harvey, and another Read More
Robotics/Labor SaversBlue River, Deere Deal Will Accelerate Farm Robot Innov…
September 11, 2017
No, Blue River Co-founder and CEO Jorge Heraud has not been deposed — Gaddafi-style — by big, bad corporate overlord Read More