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Thursday, 05 January 2017 09:19

Precision ag insights

Working examples of how Western Australian grain growers have used precision agriculture tools to implement and measure on farm trials is the focus of a new GRDC publication this week.

‘Calculating return on investment for on-farm trials’ has been compiled by the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association as part of a ‘Do it yourself Precision Agriculture’ project funded by the corporation.
SEPWA project officer Alice Butler said precision agriculture tools, incorporated into normal farming operations, offered a simple and effective way of implementing and measuring on farm trials to test the yield or economic effect of any treatment.
“Using yield data from the harvester’s monitor to analyse these trials puts a value to the practice change and allows growers to measure how profitable any change is to their businesses,” she said.
Alice said the booklet included case studies of how growers in different parts of WA’s grainbelt had measured the economic returns of treatments to help them make whole-farm decisions.
“The purpose of the publication is to provide examples of the methodologies used and to assist other growers to competently conduct their own on farm trials to calculate the potential return on an investment,” she said.
“Farming businesses had different approaches for testing high cost treatments such as claying.
“You may be fixing something for the future and this increases the importance of doing trials so that you understand the long-term financial impact an input will have on your business profitability.”
Alice said WA grain growers featured in the publication included:

  • Ben Cripps of Binnu – variable rate phosphorus
  • Brendon and Kelly O’Neill of Ongerup – reassessing the use of gypsum on grey clays 
  • Ian and Lyndon Mickel of Beaumont and Condingup – delving to suppress non-wetting issues
  • Mic and Marnie Fels, of Wittenoom Hills – creating a duplex soil type using a mouldboard plough and claying.

Other information in the booklet included a simple calculator to help growers determine return on investment; trial design; site selection; the use of global positioning systems; marking out and harvesting trials; and analysing results using yield data.
Calculating return on investment for on farm trials is available at https://grdc.com.au/ROI-OnFarmTrials

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