Monday 2 May 2016

Efficient water management = successful cropping season

The 2015/16 cropping season saw a year that required a large amount of irrigation across most of the country due to the dry weather. If you weren’t using spray irrigation, variable rate irrigation (VRI) or measuring your soil moisture you probably ended up either over or under-doing the irrigation required for your pasture or crops. The more efficient an irrigation system, particularly this season the better off you would have been with maximising your return times and applying the right amount of irrigation for each crop.

Following harvest for the cropping guys we’ve certainly seen that more efficient irrigation methods (pivots and laterals and VRI) coupled with soil moisture monitoring has resulted in both increased crop yields as well as more even crops, even in this tricky dry year that we’ve had.

At Greenvale Pastures this season Craige Mackenzie has seen a massive advantage in his investment in spray irrigation (1 pivot and 1 lateral) both with VRI and his soil moisture probes. Average wheat yields have been up approximately 3.5t/ha this season and ryegrass yields have been up approximately 800kg/ha. These quite large yield increases during a testing dry year show that good yields are highly achievable and in Craige’s case, that Precision Agriculture (PA) and the tools and technologies that are part of PA are helping him achieve this.

Wheat yield map - 2015/16 season

Assuming that 50ha of a farm was in ryegrass and 50ha was in wheat with these yield increases it would give an increased profit of $64,750 (assuming wheat is $370/t) for wheat and $100,000 (assuming ryegrass is $2.50/kg) for ryegrass. This averages an increased profit of $1,647.50/hectare. When put into perspective this increase in yield is enough to almost pay for a pivot a VRI system and EM Surveying in one year.

The other advantage of using VRI on cropping farms is that you typically get a more even crop which makes life far easier when it comes to harvest as the entire crop is mature and ready for harvest at once. This advantage is very hard to tie an actual cost/benefit value to however the feedback from cropping farmers to date is that this is worth a significant value to their enterprises and this differs from crop to crop.

Wheat (Starfire) on 7th January 2016 - Paddock 19 @ Greenvale Pastures

The challenge from here is to see how we can consistently keep these yields up for all crops and across all seasons while maintaining strong on farm profitability. From where we’re placed and with the experiences we’re having across a wide range of farms we see Precision Agriculture as the way to do this. It’s all about knowing your paddocks and your crops and mitigating the weakest limiting factor and working from there. For some it might be fertility, for others it might be variable soil types and irrigation but for all cropping farmers yield mapping should play a key part in this Precision Ag journey.    

Here’s a photo for a bit of yield motivation…what can you achieve in this coming season? 

Great yields in wheat - 2015/16 season @ Greenvale Pastures

You can also see more of what’s happening on farm at Greenvale and keep up with their progress on their Facebook page

If you have any questions on how you can get the most out of your yield data or where to start the Precision Ag journey please give us a call at Agri Optics (03 3029227) so we can help you get started in the most efficient way for your farm. Cheers, Jemma