Apps a new tool of choice

New apps now online to help with seasonal decisions


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Easy-to-use new technology is allowing growers to access critical information about their soils.

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Using data such as from local weather stations, soil type, stubble cover and agronomy (dates, crops) can help growers assess soil water levels. PHOTO GRDC

Using data such as from local weather stations, soil type, stubble cover and agronomy (dates, crops) can help growers assess soil water levels. PHOTO GRDC

Simple, easy-to-use technologies are helping growers make critical, timely, in-season decisions at the touch of a button, all while standing in the paddock.

New apps, such as CSIROs Graincast™, coupled with established apps, such as SoilWaterApp, are giving growers the confidence to make important decisions without the need for large data input or expensive equipment outlays.

Graincast™, which was developed by CSIRO, can estimate soil moisture and potential yield at any point in the season by using advanced mapping technology.

CSIRO farming systems scientist Dr Roger Lawes says the new app is based on modelling technology using satellite imagery over a 90-metre grid and information from the closest Bureau of Meteorology weather station. The only three variables a grower needs to input into the app are last years crop, this years crop and paddock location.

Dr Lawes says this new modelling and mapping technology has not been used previously in Australian agriculture. In 2018, 80 growers across Australia trialled the new technology.

Dr Lawes believes growers are thinking about their decision-making processes differently to previous generations.

Our surveys and on-farm discussions uncovered a feeling among growers that they were sick of both the big-data and the small-data movements, which require a lot of time and data input," he says.

"We asked growers what type of technology would be useful to them and they told us they wanted something that was mobile, quick and easy to use. They didn't want to be told what to do, they just wanted the key information, so they could decide what was best for them."

The app is available on iOS (iPhone) and Android through the Graincast website.

This new mapping technology is also being applied at a national level to map Australias grain cropping regions, providing industry and government with information about the crop as early in the season as September.

The advanced forecasting technology can determine crop type and crop area, ultimately predicting crop sizes and the location of these specific crops.

Dr Lawes says the technology allows advisers, bulk handlers, marketers, commodity forecasters and insurers to forecast grain production at the regional and national scales.

Our surveys and on-farm discussions uncovered a feeling among growers that they were sick of both the big-data and the small-data movements, which require a lot of time and data input. - CSIRO farming systems scientist Dr Roger Lawes

Likewise, the GRDC-invested SoilWaterApp, developed by Dr David Freebairn from the University of Southern Queensland, has also been a handy tool for growers since its release in 2016.

Only available for iOS users, this app has more than 15,000 subscribers across Australia, providing up-to-the minute plant-available water information and paddock moisture tracking data.

Using data from local weather stations, soil type, stubble cover and agronomy (dates, crops), soil water levels can be quickly assessed.

Crop yield potential is also predicted.

While Dr Freebairn says this app compliments physical moisture probes, he is also confident the accuracy of the online technology is just as good as anything placed into the soil.

One of the really fantastic outcomes from all of this new technology is the discussion it creates on-farm, among growers and their advisers, Dr Freebairn says.

I think the availability of this technology has allowed growers to be better informed about what is going on below the soil surface where traditionally this has been difficult to assess.

As with Graincast™ SoilWaterApp was developed to predict the moisture available to the plant, which, in turns, assists growers to make timely crop-management decisions.

Both apps are free and are available now.

GRDC Research Code USQ00014

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