Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

Data collection at harvest

Farmers across NSW are seeing a bumper harvest and as the header moves through crops on the Charles Sturt University farm our researchers are collecting data to inform precision agriculture research.

The harvester has been fitted with a whole grain analyserGraham Centre senior research fellow in spatial agriculture Jon Medway said an on-combine whole grain analyser is providing great detail about the variation in production within each paddock this harvest.

“The sensor is able to collect and analyse a sample every six to 12 seconds and is connected to the harvesters GPS equipment to record the location of each measurement.

"It’s measuring grain moisture and protein and oil content in Canola.”

Mr Medway said the information gathered this harvest will be matched with detailed landscape soil mapping and satellite data collected throughout the growing season.

“Yield data by itself can be incredibly valuable but it increases in its value if you can match that with other pieces of information to actually understand and explain why one part of the paddock has produced differently to another part of the paddock. Understanding the soil is a starting step for understanding yield variability.”

“What we are interested in is how we can use this information for the management of the subsequent crops. Is there something we can do around fertiliser management utilising soil moisture to achieve the optimum, yield, protein or oil content mix.

“The yield variability in Canola ranged from 1.7 tonnes to 3 tonnes per hectare while the oil content ranged from 42 per cent to 48 per cent.

“The highest oil content grain also came from the highest yielding areas of the paddock which also corresponded with the lowest conductivity, lightest textured soil of the paddock.

“It’s going to be really interesting to go back after harvest and look at the residual moisture in different parts of the paddock and look at how we might use that information.”

Barley and wheat harvest is now underway and Mr Medway said data about protein content of the grain will allow for a more detailed understanding of the Nitrogen use.

“It’s fairly common for growers to use yield maps to try to estimate what the Nitrogen requirements for the following season will be.

“This year having the protein content means we can generate Nitrogen removal maps.

“We can look at how many kilograms of Nitrogen has been removed from each hectare, then we can look at residual moisture and Nitrogen in different parts of the paddock to give us a much more complete view of the Nitrogen use cycle.

Mr Medway said repeating the research over multiple seasons will be critical.

Thanks to Charles Sturt farm manager James Stephens, CNH’s Precision Solutions and Telematics Business Unit precision farming specialist Daryn Higgins and harvest contractor Ben Beck for their support in this research.

The research is part of the creation of a ‘digital twin’ of the 1,600 hectare Charles Sturt Farm for teaching, research and to develop decision support tools for farmers to make better use of data and precision agriculture technology.

Hear more in the Digital Farm podcast.


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