Precision Agriculture

Precision Agriculture
The following article appeared in The Land this week, claiming that the adoption of variable rate technology is

well behind the adoption of autosteering systems. This question is intended to let you explore the reasons for

Briefly outline how VRT can be used in cropping systems, and outline what are the benefits/disadvantages of the

technology which will lead to (or hinder) its adoption by producers.
Word limit: 1000 words
VRT next frontier: growers
03 Sep, 2013 04:00 AM
Precision Agronomics Australia agronomist Frank D’Emden reveals results of an in-depth study on precision

agriculture at this week’s 16th Precision Agriculture Research Symposium held in Perth.
VARIABLE rate technology (VRT) is the next big step Australian farmers will adopt in the continuum called

precision agriculture (PA).
Leading the charge are farmers in WA’s northern and central Wheatbelt and South Coast and South Australian farmers

in the Lower Eyre Peninsula.
That’s according to an in-depth survey on PA adoption trends held by CSIRO researchers in conjunction with

Esperance-based Precision Agronomics Australia (PAA).
Speaking at the 16th Precision Agriculture Research Symposium in Perth this week, PAA agronomist Frank D’Emden

said 573 farmers were interviewed throughout Australia during September and October in 2012.
“It was part of a broader GRDC-supported study of practice change by grain growers,” Mr D’Emden said. “The study

placed particular emphasis on the role of advisers and the perceived benefits of future adoption, with the aim of

identifying where potential lies to most effectively facilitate future profitable use of PA practices.”
Interestingly the study revealed a surge in autosteer adoption over the last five years but a slower, steadier

uptake of VRT.
According to Mr D’Emden, the use of varying fertiliser rates within paddocks is consistently higher than the use

of VRT seeding equipment.
“The result shows a substantial number of growers have been varying fertiliser rates on identified paddock zones

in a low-tech way,” he said. “(But) the use of varying fertiliser rates (by VRT) is now increasing at about the

same rate as uptake of seeders equipped with VRT.”
The year 1995 was nominated as the start of a fledgling PA industry but at that time, about 15 per cent of farmers

surveyed were varying fertiliser rates.
In 1995, the first yield monitor was released but surprisingly by 2011 adoption rates had reached less than 60pc,

according to the survey.
“A high proportion of growers have yield monitoring equipment but only about half have collected yield map data,”

Mr D’Emden said.
“The difference does not appear to have narrowed over the last decade.”
Where yield mapping has been adopted, the survey shows it is closely associated with adoption of VRT and varies

greatly throughout grain-growing regions of Australia.
“Autosteer adoption shows higher and more consistent uptake across regions with the rate of increase in adoption

slowing in some regions where adoption rates approach between 70 and 90 per cent,” Mr D’Emden said.
The surprise in the survey is the relatively low adoption rates of PA equipment.
But this could be explained by the onset of the Global Financial Crisis and a lack of good seasons in the last