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Ongoing project

Adoption of precision systems technology in vegetable production (VG16009)

Key research provider: The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

What’s it all about?

This investment is tasked with supporting the vegetable industry in adopting precision agriculture technologies. It is responsible for developing case-study farms in each state for research and extension – including training events and field days – and will develop video and fact-sheet resources to showcase potential applications of relevant precisions technologies.

Opportunities and resources relating to the project are circulated in industry channels, including the levy-funded Vegetables Australia magazine and Weekly Update e-newsletters.

The research team reports progress on all fronts in this project. They are working at sites around Australia, mapping soil characteristics and ground truthing image results, with each case study adding to the team’s mapping and prediction expertise.

Imaging has allowed capture of many soil attributes including:

  • Depth of topsoil
  • Soil types
  • Readily available water
  • Nutrient status
  • Organic matter
  • Cation exchange capacity
  • Soil pH.

Feedback to growers via various types of imaging is improving their crop management, allowing them to address problems in parts of fields or making changes to suit the conditions better. Management changes have included adding lime and gypsum, adding organic matter, better drainage, changing irrigation practices and changing crops.

The team can now make plant counts, assess crop vigour and predict yield based on images, with techniques improving with experience.

In one case, carrots in Tasmania, the team mapped reflectance data from crops collected by satellites and yield from those fields, allowing prediction for the whole crop. Across two seasons, 2018 and 2019, the overall accuracy of yield forecasting was 85 per cent. The team will work to improve estimates further, but the technique shows great promise.

Cost information is currently being collated for these sites and project staff are considering how best to capture the benefits from these technologies.

Project staff continued to collect and collate information for case study development and footage has been captured to commence case study videos. A grower tour is planned for September 2019 to showcase the work, so keep an eye out for more details in industry communication channels.

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Read about automating plant counts using drone imagery on page 42 of the May-June 2019 edition Vegetables Australia magazine

The research team began the project by compiling a comprehensive literature review of the ways that precision agriculture technologies can assist vegetable producers. The review investigates the use of various sensors that often capture images, as well as variable rate technology (a shift from uniform crop management), and advances in yield monitoring.

Crop sensing performs two main purposes for growers:

  • Finding variability in a field, so that a grower can see where management is needed to maximise yield
  • Estimating crop yield in advance of harvest.

Crop sensing, while still in its early days as an agricultural technology, can provide data on:

  • Nutritional status, primarily nitrogen levels
  • Physiological status, commonly water stress
  • Disease detection, identifying areas that need closer inspection
  • Yield forecasting.

In addition to developing this resource, the team has worked with six growers to develop data packages which are being used to help growers boost yield. Images of fields are being matched with measurements taken on the ground to make vigour maps and predict yield in several crops. Work is being carried out across all states of Australia.

As the work progresses, the technologies are yielding valuable results which are communicated to growers through articles in industry channels as well as field work events and demonstration sites. 

A series of fact sheets is also under production, so keep an eye out for them in future updates.

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Related levy funds
Details

This project is a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Vegetable Fund