Wednesday 5th July 2017, Copthorne Solway Park Hotel, Masterton
Baker Ag are proud to announce that this year’s seminar has one of the best line-ups yet:
• Melissa Clark-Reynolds – disruptive technologies.
• Dr Charles Merfield – alternate solutions to drenching and weed spraying.
• Ian Williams – how are our farm systems being changed in the name of “sustainability”.
• Richmond Beetham – the wakeup call from the Waikato!
• James Lockhart & Sully Alsop – Benchmarking, a fad or real tool for progress?
• Steve Maharey and Andrew Gibbs – international change and megatrends – what does it mean for NZ?
• Willie Falloon – what are we changing.
Matt Watson, from the Ultimate Fishing Show is the After Dinner Speaker.
There is a free bus service for any attendees from Rangitikei, Manawatu, and Tararua regions. Put the date in your diary.
Tickets are limited to 250 and they are selling fast $185/head – includes dinner and drinks.
In 2017 our 15th Annual Conference focuses on automated tools for data collection, decision making and doing actual tasks on the farm (and beyond).
What do you want?
What’s on offer?
How will farms and management have to change?
We have a comprehensive programme. We’ve gone a bit outside the box to bring a variety including from outside the horticultural and arable sectors. We find cross-pollination and hybrid vigour valuable!
So register, come along and listen to excellent presenters, discuss the ideas with colleagues and go away with new understanding and plans.
GrowMaps principal Luke Posthuma completed the survey, and says his observations as the survey progressed suggest there is a reasonable spread of pH across our relatively small area.
As well as Veris sampling, Luke took a number of soil samples for verification and calibration checks.
The Veris equipment also maps soil electrical conductivity (EC) down to 60cm. Soil EC is a measurement of how much electrical current soil can conduct. It is often an effective way to map soil texture because smaller soil particles such as clay conduct more current than larger silt and sand particles.
Part of the Veris pH mapping is post-survey processing to create the most reliable result. We await the processed maps with considerable interest.
We previously had a similar soil conductivity map provided by AgriOptics and it will be interesting to compare the results.
Adrian Hunt is a crop scientist at Plant and Food Research.
He recently completed a PhD at the University of Tasmania, investigating Pre-Harvest and Post-Harvest factor effects on the quality of onion bulbs exported to Europe for counter seasonal supply. He now works across the vegetable and arable sectors to improve yield, profitability and environmental outcomes.
Together with colleagues Joanna Sharp, Paul Johnstone and Bruce Searle, Adrian has been investigating the value proposition for variable rate fertiliser application.
The technology to deliver variable rate fertiliser in an automated manner has advanced substantially in recent years. This has been aided by new or adapted spreading technologies coupled with location awareness using GPS (Global Positioning System). It is now technically possible to distribute fertilisers in a wide range of spatial patterns within a paddock, however the value proposition of variable rate fertiliser application is not thoroughly understood.
The Plant and Food team looked at the difference in productivity, profitability and potential environmental impact of a range of spatial management scales.
Based on a sampling grid of 105 points in a Hawke’s Bay paddock and used mineral N and a N mineralisation assay to quantify the underlying variability in N processes/cycling within the paddock they “grew” both irrigated and unirrigated maize in the crop simulation model APSIM Next Generation for the 105 sampling locations for 35 growing seasons, using long term weather data.
The Society of Precision Agriculture (SPAA) is a non-profit and independent membership based group formed in Australia in 2002 to promote the development and adoption of precision agriculture (PA) technologies.
I attended the SPAA expo in March this year which was a grower focused day to present the latest tools and services available to growers. All speakers were service providers or users of the technology as opposed to researchers presenting their studies. This made for a day of very applied learning.
A common theme of the day was that tools selected had to deliver a positive return; i.e. they had to earn their keep. This was very good to hear as I feared I would be seen as a laggard to comment on the lack of variable rate and prescription maps. Most of the speakers identified a problem and the use of tools to find a solution.
There was also a range of farm types and again the message was any one can use PA concepts and you do not need to have high tech tools to practice PA.
The work with Near Infrared, Infrared and Short Wavelength InfraRed has come a long way and the work being done by Dr Ian Yule from Massey University leads the way. Of special interest was a camera manufacturer who could allow you to choose which bands you required and build a camera to suit at an affordable cost, putting this technology in everyone’s hands.
So, if we can do the research around what we want to sense and which wavelength it requires we could get real time data to enable prescriptions without the need to ground truth. This would be the next major leap forward in PA tools.
Anthony (Tony) Davoren is a Director of Aqualinc with responsibility for the HydroServices business unit that provides irrigation and environmental management services; soil moisture, and water level and water meter monitoring.
Tony’s expertise in and knowledge of soils and hydraulic properties, irrigation systems and design, and crop water demand has been applied and enhanced over the last 35 years working in these fields.
Tony says several questions need to be asked and honest answers or solutions given:
Are we and you ready?
What do we need?
Is automating irrigation management wise or the right solution?
Are we or you ready?
When considering automating irrigation management, both the provider and the user must be an “innovators”; i.e. they must be in the top 2.5% of the industry. It may be that some “early adopters”, the next 13.5% of the industry, might be ready for the technology and its application to automate irrigation management.
What do we need?
Because it will be the innovators who adopt and field prove any technologies, these technologies must be robust and proven with a sound scientific backing. Innovators will identify the financial benefits of the automation, which needs:
Well-designed irrigation systems
High uniformity irrigation systems
Well maintained irrigation systems
Precise soil moisture and/or crop monitoring systems
Interface “model” to irrigation controller
Are these all in place?
Is automation wise or the right solution?
Tony established HydroServices providing on-farm irrigation management services based on in situ soil moisture measurements in Canterbury, Pukekohe, Waikato, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Manawatu, Wairarapa and Central Otago. During this he provided specialist soil moisture monitoring for Foundation for Arable Research, LandWISE, Crown Research Institutes, Regional Councils, Clandeboye Dairy Factory and others.
Tony completed his PhD in Engineering Science at Washington State University, Pullman, USA.
Remotely sensed hyperspectral data provides the possibility to categorise and quantify the farm landscape in great detail, supplementing local expert knowledge and adding confidence to decisions.
In his presentation, Tommy will explain how hyperspectral aerial imagery is being used to classify various components of the hill country farming landscape. He focuses on development of techniques to identify and classify various vegetation components including water, tracks/soil, Manuka, scrub, gum, poplar and other tree species.
Tommy’s PhD has been funded by Ravensdown and MPI as part of the PGP project “pioneering to precision”. A background in agronomy and 15 years’ experience in golf course design, construction and project management has developed an array of real-world skills that has helped shape his research. His goal is for his work to produce tangible benefits for hill country farmers.
The NZ Soil Management Field Days offer a two day field aimed at all areas of crop production that needs to cultivate the soil.
The two Days aim to bring together a broad selection of machinery companies keen to demonstrate their products both new and existing.Also present will be new technology looking to improve our understanding of the soil and better ways to control weeds and disease.
Catering on site will be available for the two days with coffee and hot food. Upon registration the first 250 entrants will receive a free event hat.
On the first afternoon FAR will give three presentations on:
Research outcomes for soil management and environmental issues
Cultivation techniques long term trial Northern Crop research site
Soil quality results from focus on potatoes project and then these will be repeated in in the morning of the second day.
Once again many thanks to all the main sponsors and exhibitors and to Sundale Farms for the use of the site.
This is an opportunity to see new technology and techniques from a broad base of suppliers from throughout New Zealand.
The Pukekohe area has a unique 12 months of the year growing potential, a wide variety of crops grown, and some of the biggest grower operations in the country. Within New Zealand there are many companies with new ideas and great equipment which don’t get seen.
Special note to suppliers and potential sponsors
Contact the organisers to ask any questions, they are hoping to accommodate as many companies as possible and expect growers from all over the country to come.
Now in year two of our OnionsNZ SFF project, we have trials at the MicroFarm and monitoring sites at three commercial farms in Hawke’s Bay and three more in Pukekohe.
A summary of Year 1 is on our website. A key aspect was testing a range of sensors and camera systems for assessing crop size and variability. Because onions are like needles poking from the ground, all sensors struggled especially when plants were small. This is when we want to know about the developing crop, as it is the time we make decisions and apply management.
By November our sensing was more satisfactory. At this stage we captured satellite, UAV, smartphone and GreenSeeker data and created a series of maps.
We used the satellite image to create canopy maps and identify zones. We sampled within the zones at harvest, and used the raltioship between November canopy and February yield to create yield maps and profit maps.
We also developed relationships between photographs of ground cover, laboratory measurements of fresh weight and leaf area and the final crop yield.
In reviewing the season’s worth of MicroFarm plot measurements and noticed there were areas where yield reached its potential, areas where yield was limited by population (establishment), some where yield was limited by canopy growth (development) and some by both population and development.
This observation helped us form a concept of Management Action Zones, based on population and canopy development assessments.
Our aims for Year 2 are on the website. We set out to confirm the relationships we found in Year 1.
This required developing population expectations and determining estimates of canopy development as the season progressed, against which field measurement could be compared.
We had to select our “zones” before the crop got established as we did a lot of base line testing of the soil. So our zones were chosen based on paddock history and a fair bit of guess work. Really, we need to be able to identify zones within an establishing or developing crop, then determine what is going on so we can try to fix it as quickly as possible.
In previous seasons we experimented with smartphone cameras and image processing to assess canopy size and relate that to final yields. We are very pleased that photographs of sampling plots processed using the “Canopeo” app compare very well with Leaf Area Index again this season.
Through the season we tracked crop development in the plots and using plant counts and canopy cover assessments to try and separate the effects of population (establishment) and soil or other management factors.
We built a web calculator to do the maths, aiming for a tool any grower or agronomist can use to aid decision making. The web calculator was used to test our theories about yield prediction and management zones.
ASL Software updated the “CoverMap” smartphone application and we obtained consistent results from it. The app calculates canopy ground cover and logs data against GPS position in real time. Because we have confidence that ground cover from image processing is closely related to Leaf Area Index we are working to turn our maps into predictions of final yields.
The current season’s MicroFarm crop is certainly variable. Some is deliberate: we sat the irrigator over some areas after planting to simulate heavy rain events, and we have a poorly irrigated strip. We know some relates to different soil and cover crop histories.
But some differences are unexpected and so far reasons unexplained.
Together with Plant and Food Research we have been taking additional soil samples to try and uncover the causes of patchiness.
We’ve determined one factor is our artificial rain storm, some crop loss is probably runoff from that and some is historic compaction. We’ve even identified where a shift in our GPS AB line has left 300mm strips of low production where plants are on last year’s wheel tracks!
But there is a long way to go before this tricky crop gives up its secrets.
Mark Redshaw put hours into getting the MicroFarm up and running and spending much of his free-time spraying and monitoring onions for two seasons. Now we have our own small sprayer we have taken that task over, but remain most grateful to Mark.
After a number of years of constant pea crops, we are having a break. Our main focus this season has been on onions, crop variability and its drivers. We have plenty of variability, but which factors are driving still proves elusive.
We do know topography and drainage are critical factors but they do not explain all the variation we are seeing. To assess their impact, we deliberately applied “heavy rain” to some areas and have been comparing these with areas not subjected to a hard40+mm rain event before emergence.
We prepared an OptiSurface plan two years ago but did not implement it as we were keen to explore variation in our onions trials. Perhaps it is time to act on our own advice!
The other main crop this season is sweetcorn. We are hosting a series of variety trials and are assessing a soil amendment product to see if it offers an economic advantage to growers.
To assess the soil amendment we set up a six plot replicated trial – with and without the treatment. We randomly split plots to avoid bias, and are taking crop development data through the season. At harvest we will determine paddock yield and the recovery rate of kernels in each plot.