By Roo Hall – Farm Innovation Specialist
Is a new integrated system which combines GPS guidance and tracking systems with computerised farm mapping to automate the trickiest and dangerous part of aerial topdressing - opening and closing the fertiliser hopper at the right time, in the right place.
The utilisation of this technology allows application of fertiliser to where it is most beneficial, whilst keeping out of the parts of farm where it is not wanted or needed.
3 Pāmu farms were selected for the utilisation of this new technology over the 2017/18 growing season, this review looks at Tutamoe Station in the North Island East Coast.
Exclusion Zone Selection Criteria
Exclusion zones were set up online through the TracMap application. The criteria for these were determined by the farm manager and farm innovation specialist, these consisted of:
- Farm boundaries - Swamps
- Dams - Main water ways
- Main stock routes - Holding Paddocks
- Yards - Roads/ tracks
- Prominent ridge lines - Low lying/poor productivity areas
- Stock camps - Gully’s
Originally there was 6 different segmented blocks on the original plan with different rates of Superten spread over 1907ha as per the Farm IQ map, at an average rate of Superten at 233kg/ha (20kg P/ha). After the setup of the exclusion zones and narrowing down to just two blocks, with variable rates to suit performance of areas. The hectares were lowered to 1757ha planned, then 1592ha (84% of original ha) applied at an average rate of Superten at 262kg/ha (23.5kg P/ha). There was a total reduction of 27 tonnes of total Superten from the initial plan (6.5% less).
With a normal aerial topdressing operation it has been hard to accurately trace how effectively these applications and rates have been applied, in addition to the placement of the fertiliser in the paddocks or blocks. With the use of the new technology we can clearly see a proof of placement of the fertiliser, in addition to placement in areas where we will boost pasture productivity.
Feedback Post Application
From the farm manager and team involved it was noted the ease of the application and speed it was completed, compared with previous applications. Major benefit highlighted by the manager was firstly the avoidance of native bush and waterways, placement of the fertiliser on areas where it is best utilised and the safer flight paths taken as a result of the A-B lines set by the TracMap program.
In Review, the main benefits seen from the SpreadSmart application at Tutamoe Station were:
· Proof of placement that fertiliser was not spread in native areas or water ways.
· The reduction in the total fertiliser utilised on farm, with improved rates
utilised on areas most beneficial to the pasture production on farm.
· Safer operation of the aircraft on farm with pilots not distracted by
operating hopper or having to make steep banks and turns to cover
specific blocks at a time.
· Opportunity to utilise variable rates on farm to target key areas