Review, analysis and discussion of precision agriculture technologies : SRDC final report NCA009
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The development of a range of new technologies has brought agriculture and agricultural equipment to a whole new level of sophistication. First hypothesised in the early 1990’s, Precision Agriculture (PA) is a crop management philosophy, which utilises these technologies to produce crops in a more sustainable fashion. The Australian sugar industry is faced with a long term trend of reducing value of production and increasing input costs. The industry has rapidly adopted GPS based guidance technology with many cane growers now having access to high precision GPS technologies. However, there remains a wide range of uncertainties and conflicting opinions that make the next step for PA a daunting prospect for cane growers, therefore the adoption of PA has been slow. PA has gained a significant amount of publicity in recent years, especially in other farming systems such as cotton, grain growing and viticulture. There has been a flood of rapidly developing technologies and techniques (often very costly) that have confronted growers claiming to aid in all aspects of farm management. With a few notable exceptions, PA is still a relatively new concept in the sugar industry. However, it will happen in the sugar industry. PA technologies have the potential to improve the commercial viability and environmental sustainability of sugarcane production and harvesting. To a degree, PA, within the sugar industry has been driven by the advent of various new technologies, particularly the coupling of real-time positioning using global positioning systems (GPS). The rapid adoption of GPS guidance and tractor steering technology and the direct benefits of reduced overlap and increased productivity have made cane growers acutely aware of the potential benefits of new technologies. With the initial adoption of these technologies, cane growers are seeing the benefits of more efficient operations with some cane growers claiming that they have halved their labour requirements. There is thus an urgent need to increase knowledge of PA across the industry to ensure that adoption decisions are made on an informed basis that learns from other agricultural industries both domestically and internationally.