Soil mapping drone on its way to Australia to help potato growers

Drones for potato soil mapping

[Editor’s Note: ViCSPA is collaborating with A&L Canada Laboratories in Ontario to bring the same drone technology to Australia.]

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Drone technology being used to map soil type and quality in Canadian potato crops will be available in Australia by the end of the year.

The industry-based, not-for-profit body ViCSPA is working with A&L Canada Laboratories in Ontario to bring one of the machines to Australia and assist its members to access soil services.

A&L Canada Laboratories president Greg Patterson told growers at the ViCSPA conference in Bendigo on Monday that testing that helped them understand the soil types in their paddocks more precisely was of more use to them than traditional soil analysis methods.

“Site specific sampling or using something like yield monitors, satellite imagery or drones is the way you want to go,” he said.

“It gives you a better understanding of the spatial variability and you are not mixing soil types up.”

“You can move 20 feet (6m) in a field and have a completely different soil type or chemistry, which could affect how that field performs.”

Mr Patterson said the drones were used in conjunction with site-specific sampling, or “soil audits”.

“We take a number of different soil samples across a paddock and build maps to interpret that information,” he said.

“A bird’s-eye view really helps you understand what is going on in a field and can help pick up problem areas.

“You may not ever sample that field in that way again, but it gives you a background of understanding what your soil variability is.”

A&L Canada Laboratories was set up in 1985 by a group of potato farmers who were unhappy with the way the industry was delivering information to growers.

Their aim was to deliver a full-service laboratory offering agricultural research services.

Mr Patterson said Australia had huge challenges in managing soil PH and calcium requirements and it was something potato growers needed to focus on.

“Everyone is a little afraid of that because of the scab issues but I can guarantee that calcium does not cause scab, in fact there are places around the world that actually lime fields to get rid of it,” he said.


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