Precision fertilising in the hills

Precision fertilising in the hills

4 June 2014

Blanket fertiliser application could be a thing of the past for hill-country farmers, with world-first technology allowing targeted application of fertiliser.

The technology, to be developed in a Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) between Ravensdown and the Crown, was signed off by Ministry for Primary Industries director-general Martyn Dunne yesterday.

The PGP, Driving Innovation: Transforming Hill-Country Farming, has the potential to lift pasture production by 25%.

Ravensdown general manager for R&D, Mike Manning, revealed the new technology at the Primary Industries Summit in Wellington yesterday.

It combines remote-sensing of soil fertility on hills with GPS-guided aerial topdressing, to improve hill-country productivity and reduce nutrient runoff.

The research will develop remote sensors that can scan for areas that need less fertiliser than others. A fertiliser plan can then be prepared and sent to the GPS-equipped topdressing planes.

“Our vision was to transform hill-country. We wanted to be the first country in the world to remotely sense the nutrient status and accurately apply fertiliser.”

The technology means variable rates of fertiliser can be applied within one paddock and Manning hopes the first phase of development, the GPS-equipped planes, will be available for farmers to use in two years.

“Two things drive pasture growth – moisture and soil fertility. It’s hard to manage moisture, but we can do something about soil fertility.”

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