Growers in the Mid-North and Yorke Peninsula can access a range of innovative crop monitoring data thanks to a SAGIT-funded project studying high-tech crop monitoring tools.
Agbyte’s Leet Wilksch has installed equipment at three sites in conjunction with grower groups Northern Sustainable Soils, Hart Field Site and Mid-North High Rainfall Zone including a range of novel sensors as well as common sensors such as rainfall, temperature and soil moisture.
“As well as the usual sensors, the monitoring sites include sensors such as leaf wetness, vegetation index, canopy temperature and a sunlight meter,” Mr Wilksch says.
Many of the sensors are used in other industries such as irrigated cropping or viticulture, but this is the first time they are being applied into dryland cropping.
“The idea of the project is that we’re investigating how useful this information can be to dry-land croppers,” Mr Wilksch says.
The information, which is available to the public online at www.agbyte.com.au, is intended to assist growers in making decisions throughout the year.
“For example, leaf wetness might help growers decide whether to spray in summer, or in spring, in the middle of the night, they can decide whether to commence hay baling without having to travel out to the paddock,” he says.
“Growers also found last season during harvest they could use leaf wetness to decide how many hours they had until they would have to stop harvesting due to moisture.”
Continuous normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) data is intended to complement maps from satellites and drones.
“Many growers are now using NDVI data from mapping their property at one point in time, so we’re looking at whether it is also useful to have the data at one position throughout the growing season,” Mr Wilksch says.
“I’m hoping we will be able to use the real-time NDVI data along with soil moisture to help make quick nitrogen decisions, looking at how much nitrogen the crop is using as well as how much moisture is available for growth.”
The stations also measure for the presence of temperature inversions and provide the grasslands fire danger index during harvest.
“As well as providing growers with extra tools to help them measure what is going on with their crop, the stations are also useful to help growers get a better feel for the weather and calibrate their own intuition,” Mr Wilksch says.
“A lot of times a grower will suspect there is an inversion layer by feel, so this data is there as a tool for them to look at and confirm that their instinct was correct.”
Growers can view the data at www.agbyte.com.au