Letter From Lew - October 2020

Many of our customers are either gearing up for harvest or currently underway. As the culmination of cropping cycle nears, the end of harvest essentially becomes “judgment day” of one’s success as a farmer. Many of the factors that influence farming success are out of most farmers’ control, including weather, commodity prices and input costs. 

However, there are also a number of opportunities to apply technology to mitigate or eliminate a number of these variables. The post-harvest period is the ideal time to analyse your results and to develop a plan to improve chances of success during the next cropping rotation.

Precision Agriculture is often positioned as a potential solution for the global challenge of feeding an estimated 9 billion is one of the few ways that we will achieve this level of improvement. But what does Precision Agriculture really mean?

For us, Precision Agriculture is the beginning of a continuous improvement journey.

"Our definition of Precision Agriculture is being able to measure, analyse and, most importantly, act on the factors that most influence the variability in yield."

Step A. Observation – Identifying areas of variability in performance or problem areas on your farm or within a field or paddock.

Step B. Data Collection - Involves utilising technology to gather the data on the variability. There are a range of technologies to assist in this phase, including:

  • Yield monitors 
  • UAV’s satellite imagery 
  • Protein monitors 

Another element that needs to be considered are the physical elements of the field - the soils and the topography and their impact on the performance. Here we recommend topographic surveys or undertaking detailed soil sampling via systems such as our Soil Information System.

Step C. Analysis – Combining the data from the various input sources identify the most impactful, but addressable source of the variability. This can often be quite difficult as there maybe multiple issues impacting the results. There are a number of software tools available to help with this step. We typically recommend you work through this phase with your agronomist or trusted advisor.

Step D. Remedial Actions - Create a management plan that addresses variability in soils, yield potential, or other factors identified as important in the Analysis phase. These plans will typically address one or more of the following issues and can be addressed via the different technology applications:

  • Topography – impacting water flow rates and retention solved via Variable rate land levelling or drainage solutions
  • Soil physical characteristics - compaction, root zone depth, moisture retention etc. managed by deep ripping and controlled traffic
  • Soil chemical properties – Soil ameliorants via Variable rate technology
  • Crop vigour – On-the-fly variable rate fertiliser treatments

Step E. Measure and Compare – Like any improvement process, it is important to measure and compare your results. We would recommend comparing against similar fields, as well as the same field prior to the remedial actions.

A good tool to assist in the measurement is Trimble’s Farmer Pro software that allows you to track your costs and measure your profitability at a field level.
If you would like to know how we can help you with your Precision Agriculture journey, please reach out to our team. 

We hope you have a successful harvest!

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