Conquering soil variability could hold key to maximising results

Precision Agriculture's soil variability technology helping growers maximise performance

Variability mapping can help growers maximise their results. Photo: Supplied

Variability mapping can help growers maximise their results. Photo: Supplied


Maximising soil performance for best results.


AS fertiliser prices continue to climb, it is becoming more critical for growers to make accurate decisions when it comes to their paddock input.

Australia's soil is unique in that it differs not just from district to district, but paddock to paddock and in many cases, fence line to fence line.

Therefore the days of a one-size fits all approach when it comes to fertiliser are gone and a rapidly growing technique is taking its place.

Mapping variability between soils in paddocks is becoming a vital tool in helping growers maximise their crops' potential and Precision Agriculture is leading the way in helping producers better understand their soils.

Precision Agriculture's NSW area manager Campbell Underwood, Wagga Wagga, said understanding soil variability had never been more important.

"The big fertilisers for most NSW growers, particularly those in northern NSW, are phosphorus and nitrogen which currently are, give or take, about $1000 a tonne," Mr Underwood said.

"When prices are as high as that it becomes really important that you're not throwing good money after bad.

"All crops have a critical level of each nutrient in order to thrive, so if you can give it to them you will be in the best position to capitalise, which is where organisations like ours come in.

"We map variability, whether it's using land surveying equipment to zone up soil types and then do strategic grid sampling in each zone, or whether it is top-soil mapping, we are able to map nutrient variability."

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The state's recent record-breaking drought has also offered it's fair share of challenges to growers as different soils continue to recover at different rates.

"The big thing growers are facing at the moment is variability, whether that's in yield or order availability, or nutrient availability, so the question becomes how do you strategically target that to make it as commercially viable as possible?," Mr Underwood said.

"The answer is to get the right amount in the right spot.

"Along with their agronomist, we assist growers with understanding how much input they need and where."

Mr Underwood said optimising a soil's potential could also prove pivotal in helping growers recover from the drought, as well as cash in on the expected bumper summer cropping season.

"Given last year was very good and this year is shaping up to be very much the same, so with that amount of extraction in two years, it becomes really important to ensure you don't over or under capitalise on your future applications," he said.

"There is a perception that it is cost prohibitive but it's not and if you put the right amount in the right spot in ends up making a lot of practical sense because you will get a better result.

"Usually, it brings a significant cost saving and yield benefit to the grower, so it really is a bit of a double whammy when it comes to being a solution for nutrient variability.

"As well as benefit in the short-term, the process also really helps growers set up for future years.

"If you can target fertiliser and ideally spreading less artificial fertiliser, it will also help producers maintain a more wholistic approach to their soil management in the long run."

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