Adoption of precision agriculture technologies can benefit Queensland vegetable production in a variety of crops. But how do you know which technologies and approaches are right for your business?

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) senior development horticulturist Julie O’Halloran worked with producers and commercial AgTech providers to trial off-the-shelf precision agriculture technologies in vegetable farming systems across Australia.

Watch our video on how you can get started in implementing PA technology in vegetables and read our factsheet on getting started in PA.

The technology

Precision agriculture uses AgTech to collect detailed field and crop data, mainly using sensing technologies combined with geo-referencing. Julie describes the range of commercially available precision agriculture technologies they have trialled in vegetable cropping systems.

‘We often think of AgTech as something for the future, but a lot of technologies are ready for use now,’ Julie said.

Soil sensing technologies

Soil sensing technologies can be used to measure how soil characteristics vary across a field or farm. Use soil mapping to identify soil type, pH variability and salinity/nutrient constraints.

Technologies include:

  • electromagnetic soil mapping (EM38)
  • soil pH mapping (e.g. Veris® technologies)
  • mapping of soil and physical characteristics (e.g. Soil Information SystemsTM)
  • gamma radiometric analysis
  • grid sampling and analysis.

Find out more:

Crop-sensing imagery and analytics

Crop variability maps are used to direct field sampling locations (ground truthing) to identify causes of field variability and to direct crop scouting.

Use crop-sensing imagery to identify crop variability using:

  • low and high resolution satellite imagery
  • drone-captured imagery.

Increasing options in online platforms provide growers access to freely available low resolution satellite crop sensing imagery, with higher resolutions available at a cost.

The type of drone imagery is dependent on the sensor used. Drone imagery of vegetable crops are predominantly:

  • multispectral (to assess crop vigour through vegetation indices)
  • RGB (digital images).

Commercial crop imagery analytics can generate a range of crop vegetation indices from multispectral reflectance data, develop 3-dimensional crop models or automate plant counts from drone RGB imagery in brassicas, lettuce and other hand-harvested crops.

Find out more:

Variable rate application technology

Use technology for variable rate applications of soil amendments (e.g. lime/gypsum) and fertilisers to amend variable soil pH and nutrient distribution.

Find out more:

Precision drainage modelling

Accurate elevation data forms the basis for precision drainage modelling.

Precision drainage technologies can be used for land planning to optimise surface water flow, for example, TerraCuttaTM is a GPS-enabled in-cab software package for land forming operations (e.g. levelling) and iGradeTM which automates movement of the landplane (grading and plane generation).

Watch the video on precision drainage technology in vegetables.

Yield mapping and monitoring

Use harvester-based yield mapping for machine-harvested crops such as carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes.

Find out more

Benefits for agribusiness

Growers and agronomists can use the information from sensor technologies combined with targeted field sampling, to determine management options that address crop performance issues and improve farm profitability.

‘The available technology and supporting practices provide the precision needed for vegetable growers to move towards more innovative approaches to crop management,’ Julie said.

‘Our works shows that spatial variability on vegetable farms in Australia has a large enough impact on crop productivity and profitability to warrant using precision agriculture approaches.'

‘But remember that precision agriculture adoption should be targeted at addressing particular production issues rather than focusing on the technologies alone.’

'I am very excited about the future of AgTech and its use in horticulture. Trialling new ideas and implementing precision farming techniques will help to save resources and utilise them to the full potential. We want to build a sustainable industry that we want to pass on to our children and their children,’ Jaco Pauer, Irrigation Manager, Zerella Fresh.

Next steps

DAF is continuing to promote the applicability of precision agriculture technologies for Queensland vegetable production systems.

Contact: Dr Julie O’Halloran via email at Julie.OHalloran@daf.qld.gov.au
Partners: University of Tasmania, University of New England, Vegetables WA, Society of Precision Agriculture Australia, Harvest Moon, and Primary Industries and Regions South Australia
Location: Gatton Research Facility
Industries: Vegetables
Tech type: Sensors, GPS, Big Data

Connect with us

Last updated: 26 Sep 2022