UNE recognised as a leader in precision agriculture

Published 06 August 2008

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A scientist from the University of New England will be a keynote speaker this Friday (8 August) at one of Australia’s major precision agriculture forums: the Southern Precision Agriculture Crop Scanning Forum in Adelaide.

Associate Professor David Lamb will be the forum’s only keynote speaker representing a university research group. He will be talking about the work of that group – the UNE Precision Agriculture Research Group – in the application and development of crop-scanning sensors. The UNE research group is one of the nation’s biggest in this increasingly important field.

“Precision agriculture is the application of technologies to enable optimum agricultural production in variable landscapes,” Dr Lamb said. “For example, by mapping a field for the variability in biomass of a crop or pasture, optical sensors [such as that pictured here] can provide clues to variations in the soil and water conditions affecting the crop or the use of the pasture by grazing animals – vital information for farmers seeking to maximise productivity.

“Ground-based optical sensors provide data at potentially higher resolution than satellite images, and can be used to calibrate and clarify those images.”

He explained that precision agriculture offered unique opportunities to address some of the current global concerns relating to water, food and carbon. “Precision agriculture, which allows farmers to do more with less, is the only option for agriculture in the coming decades of the 21st century,” he said, “and UNE is well placed to be a major player in that endeavour.”

“The Southern Precision Agriculture Association is a national network of farmers who are keen to be at the cutting edge,” Dr Lamb said. “My invitation to represent the UNE Precision Agriculture Research Group at the forum in Adelaide recognises UNE’s growing reputation in this field.

“That recognition is confirmed by an invitation to speak at Australia’s other major forum for precision agriculture – the Australasian Symposium on Precision Agriculture in Sydney on the 19th of September – and invitations to present our work at several international forums.”

UNE’s Precision Agriculture Research Group is involved in major projects funded by the Cooperative Research Centres for Spatial Information and Irrigation Futures, as well as industry-funded projects – including one with the Australian Coal Association Research Program.

The project for the CRC for Spatial Information, titled “Clever Cattle and Cropping Systems”, is investigating, applying and developing new spatial information technologies including satellite imaging, on-ground sensing of crop and pasture growth, unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) that fly across fields to capture high-resolution data, and global positioning systems on the collars of grazing cattle. All these technologies – and more – will be on display at a field day at UNE’s Douglas McMaster Research Station, Warialda, on October the 10th.