Nutrient analysis for grain crops in dry years

Preparing for a dry Australian winter 2018

With the Australian grain season getting underway, we thought it is a good time to share our experience mapping nitrogen on a wide range of types and varieties grown last season. Working with growers and agronomists across 5 different states, we fine-tuned our nitrogen detection using aerial and satellite data and validated it both scientifically and in the field. The results have already been incorporated into the FluroSat Platform, turning all this science into a practical nitrogen prescription tool that anyone can use.

Our objective during the season was to use high resolution remote-sensing data to accurately detect crop nutrition as early in the season as possible so that growers could intervene with the greatest effect on the resulting yield.

We did this by coordinating the aerial data capture of barley, canola, sorghum and wheat crops with tissue samples of the same fields. By matching the sample results with the reflectance values from the spots they were taken from, we were able to first validate the nitrogen values we were detecting and then, by projecting the sampled points' matching algorythms across the entire field, create a map showing areas of sufficiency, deficit and toxicity.

Our agronomists and growers can use this data in the FluroSat Platform to generate management zones, avoiding the “one size fits all” approach that leads to wasteful or insufficient applications. The maps themselves have been found by our agronomist partners to be also useful for identifying other subtle yet important differences within a field and creating management zones to best deal with them.

While we concentrated on detecting nitrogen, we also got strong readings of other nutrients that we are continuing to fine-tune and validate during this current season so that we can add phosphorus, potassium and micro-nutrient maps to the FluroSat Platform. We’ll continue to work with the GRDC, NSW DPI and CSIRO to incorporate as much of their research into additional practical tools for guiding crop management strategies.

With much of country facing uncertain rainfall this season, knowing the right amount to top dress to get the best yield when it does rain without overdoing it is going to make a big difference to many growers’ bottom line. That’s not possible without an accurate measure of crop nitrogen across the entire paddock, not just those few spots you tissue sampled.

You can get a feel for how you can use the FluroSat platform for your grain crop this year by signing up for a trial. If you are interested in learning more about what we achieved last season, read our case study.