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Precision agriculture in grain farming

Central Queensland (CQ) Grower Solutions project is a joint investment between the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF). The goal is to improve the profitability and sustainability of Queensland's crop and food industries. This is done by delivering best-practice farming systems through:

  • management strategies
  • valued outcomes of research, development and extension.

CQ Grower Solutions developed 11 case studies on growers across the Central Queensland region who have implemented precision technology into their farming systems. The purpose of the case studies is to:

  • document how growers implemented precision agriculture technology into their businesses
  • outline the costs and benefits since investing.

Summary of case study findings

All 11 growers in these case studies:

  • have substantially improved their productivity and profitability since integrating precision technology into their systems
  • will be able to recoup the initial expense within years.

Growers who purchased similar technology found the biggest benefit has been in reducing chemical and seed cost.

While the case studies highlight the profitability of precision technology, it also demonstrates that adoption varies between regions due to numerous factors, including paddock variability and farmer preferences. As a result, all growers found that it was important to research what technology best suits the environment they are operating in.

These case studies recognise that there is significant potential for more widespread adoption of these technologies to benefit the broader Central Queensland grains industry.

Optical spot spraying technology

Weed management is becoming more necessary across drought-stricken regions to preserve moisture and as weed resistance increases.

This means precision technology, such as optical spot-spraying cameras and section control in spray rigs, is becoming a more important investment in farming businesses. The 2 brands of optical spot spraying technology discussed in the studies are WeediT and Weedseeker 2.

WeediT optical spot-spraying technology selectively sprays weeds and not bare ground. Five growers in Central Queensland who invested in WeediT technology saved between 82-94% of their chemical usage. This is a saving of $14-16/ha in chemical costs.

Weedseeker 2 technology was retrofitted to one grower's self-propelled sprayer. It delivered savings of 97% in chemicals and $11.50/ha from the first spray.

A self-propelled sprayer with section control has saved a grower 3% on their chemical usage since investing.

All growers found that:

  • ground-following booms are suited to flat paddocks and cannot lift above obstacles
  • suspended booms are more suitable for undulating country.

Precision planting technology

Accurate seed placement is increasingly important in current dry conditions. Precision planters can reduce competition for soil moisture by:

  • reducing overlap when planting
  • accurately placing seed into available moisture.

This reduces the amount of seed planted and lowers plant population, whilst providing the individual seed with better growing conditions.

Precision planters: In Central Queensland, 3 growers invested in precision planters. They've seen savings of:

  • 5-25% in seed
  • $2-5/ha in sorghum seed
  • $10/ha in mungbean seed.

Planter with section control: One grower invested in a planter with section control. This has reduced cost of seed by 24%.

All growers reported that individual row control and/or section control resulted in:

  • savings in seed
  • reduced plant competition from overplanting on headlands.

The Central Queensland Grower Solutions team would like to extend a thank you for all the time and effort the growers who participated provided throughout the development of the case studies.

Read the grower case studies

Growers using precision planting technology

Growers using optical spot-spraying technology

Grower using section control technology