Farm Management

Growers harness precision agriculture in on-farm trials

A new publication contains working examples of how Western Australian growers have used precision agriculture (PA) tools to implement and measure on-farm trials.

Calculating return on investment for on farm trials has been compiled by the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association (SEPWA) as part of the ‘Do it yourself (DIY) Precision Agriculture’ project funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

SEPWA project officer Alice Butler said PA tools, incorporated into normal farming operations, offered a simple and effective means of implementing and measuring on-farm trials to test the yield or economic effect of a treatment.

“Using yield data from the harvester’s monitor to analyse these trials puts a value to the practice change and allows growers to understand how profitable the change is to their businesses,” she said.

Ms Butler said the booklet included case studies of how growers in different parts of WA’s grainbelt had measured the economic returns of treatments to help them make whole-farm decisions.

“The purpose of the publication is to provide examples of the methodologies used and to assist other growers to competently conduct their own on-farm trials to calculate the potential return on an investment,” she said.

Ms Butler said farming businesses had different approaches for testing high cost treatments such as claying.

“You may be fixing something for the future and this increases the importance of doing trials so that you understand the long-term financial impact an input will have on your business’s profitability,” she said.

Ms Butler said growers featured in the publication included:

  • Ben Cripps, of Binnu, on variable rate phosphorus
  • Brendon and Kelly O’Neill, of Ongerup, on reassessing the use of gypsum on grey clays
  • Ian and Lyndon Mickel, of Beaumont and Condingup, on delving to suppress non-wetting issues
  • Mic and Marnie Fels, of Wittenoom Hills, on creating a duplex soil type using a mouldboard plough and claying.

Other information included in the booklet includes a simple calculator to help growers determine return on investment; trial design; site selection; the use of global positioning systems (GPS); marking out and harvesting trials; and analysing results using yield data.

Calculating return on investment for on farm trials is available via this link.

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