Investing With Confidence

A unique soil testing method has given sugarcane farmer, Micheal Brombal, the confidence to invest in his crop, as it’s helped him become more precise with his inputs.

The second-generation farmer, based in the Burdekin, has always been willing to incorporate precision agriculture technology into his production, especially when it allows him to increase his target management.

Wanting to understand why yield variation was occurring in his sugarcane, Micheal had soil surveying conducted on his farm with the Trimble Agriculture Soil Information System (SiS).

Vantage NEA, formerly BMS LaserSat, runs the system, which uses EM mapping in conjunction with high resolution topographic technology to determine areas of variability in a field.

Vantage NEA precision agronomist, Bryan Granshaw said the main point of difference of SiS compared to traditional soil testing methods, is that it provides spatial context and relevance to soil information.

“By far, the greatest errors associated with traditional soil mapping methods has to do with where the observations were taken,” he said.

“SiS uses EM mapping in conjunction with high resolution topographic technology to determine areas of variability in a field, meaning the areas tested are reflective of the issues occurring in the field.”

Once these areas are pinpointed, they’re tested with a unique soil probe and undisturbed soil cores are taken to a lab to be analysed.

Farmers, like Micheal, are then given post processed, spatially correct soil maps that help them understand their soil limitations.

For Micheal, these soil maps were the starting point to switching his blanket rate gypsum application to a targeted, variable rate prescription.

SiS testing detected high sodicity across Micheal’s farm and highlighted that the yield limiting levels were almost always occurring at depth.

The soil maps pinpointed the exact locations where there was yield limiting sodicity, including how far down the profile they were occurring.

Traditional soil testing methods, which only test the top layer of soil, would not have been able to detect the severity of Micheal’s sodic levels, as they were occurring below the top 20cm layer of soil.

Micheal said having SiS analysis was very telling on what he needed to do to target his management better.

“Where we thought we had really good soil, we found out there were ways we could improve it,” he said.
“It also highlighted areas that were performing really well and didn’t need as much management.”

Since Micheal has been using variable rate to spread his gypsum, he said he’s noticed significant cost improvements.

These cost improvements have not only improved Micheal’s bottom line, but encouraged him to invest in his farm despite the low sugar prices.

“It’s encouraged me to still spread gypsum to improve my yields, despite the current low sugar prices,” he said.
“It gives you the confidence to invest in your farm, because you know you’re doing it properly.”

Micheal has since had more SiS testing conducted on his property.

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