Utilising precision agriculture technologies to manage climate variability and improve nutrient use efficiency

Commencement Date: May 2016

Completion Date: June 2017

The advancement of precision agriculture (PA) has enabled the accessibility of affordable technologies that can be implemented on-farm to improve sustainable cropping practices. This project will investigate the environmental, agronomic and economic benefits of Variable Rate Technology (VRT). This project will address the following NRM issue:

  • Nutrient management and soil health by flexibly applying suitable nutrient rates for varying soil types, minimising excess build-up of unused fertilisers and chemicals.


This project will be a broadscale demonstration of the environmental, agronomic and economic benefits of VRT on a property in west Buntine. A 145ha paddock with variable soil types has been selected to best showcase the value of utilising VRT technology. The paddock has seven distinct soil types, but is mainly a sandy gravel and yellow sand with significant sections of red gravelly clay; acid gravelly loam and tammar gravelly acid clay loam and white gravelly sand (see Figure 1).

figure 1












Figure 1: Google Maps image of paddock with different soil types marked out.


AFGRI Equipment Australia provided the latest John Deere, VRT capable technology/machinery (John Deere 9520R tractor, John Deere 1870 Conserva pak bar (40 foot) and 1910 air seeder bin) for seeding the demonstration. Prescription maps were generated using yield data, farmer knowledge and historic soil tests outlining the zones of different yield potential across the paddock. This information guided fertiliser recommendations for each zone and in turn the fertiliser rates for the treatment strips. The variable fertilisers are nitrogen (urea or Flexi N) and compound (MAP and MOP). MAP treatment strips are 0 kg/ha, 30 kg/ha and 60 kg/ha (Figure 2), MOP treatment strips are 0 kg/ha, 15 kg/ha and 30 kg/ha (Figure 3), and the Urea treatment strips are 40 kg/ha, 75 kg/ha and 100 kg/ha (Figure 4). MOP and MAP treatments are 24.34m (40ft x 2) by 100m and the Urea treatment is 65m (2 x 32.5m runs of multispreader) x 100m. The treatments are repeated across the paddock.


Each zone within the demonstration was selectively soil tested at 10 locations in the paddock (pre-seeding and post-harvest), in 10cm increments to 30cm. The 0-10cm level was a comprehensive soil test; 10-20cm tested for pH, Al, K, P; 20-30cm was tested for pH only. The purpose of the soil tests were to improve our understanding of the underlying causes of differences between zones and assist in setting the treatment rates. Soil testing pre-seeding and post-harvest will allow for nutrient use efficiency to be quantified. Tissue tests will be conducted in-season to provide a comparison of plant nutrition over the three input regimes. Plant establishment, early and mid-season vigour will be assessed as further measures of plant health. These assessments will provide in season data, mitigating any adverse conditions that could compromise yield data. Yield of the paddock will be collected using the yield monitor, which will then be used for the economic analysis of the demonstration. This demonstration will show how matching inputs to your soil types is economical and environmentally sustainable.













Figure 2: Fertiliser (MAP) prescription map for VRT paddock, Buntine.














Figure 3: Fertiliser (MOP) prescription map for VRT paddock, Buntine.



Figure 4: Fertiliser (Urea) prescription map for VRT paddock, Buntine.














Figure 5: Seeding at the VRT paddock in Buntine May 2016.














Figure 6: AGRFI seeding the VRT paddock in Buntine May 2016.


















Figure 7: Checking the seed depth at Buntine May 2016.













Precision Agriculture Workshop, Dalwallinu on 2 August 2016. For further information click here.


NACC Logo_refresh_March2012PrintThis project is being delivered by The Liebe Group and is supported by Northern Agricultural Catchments Council through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.

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