Researchers aim to develop drone nutrient scans

”Transforming Hill Country Farming” is a programme aiming to develop precision fertiliser application for New Zealand farmers. A seven-year project that aimed to develop precision fertiliser applications for hill country has begun on a remote station in Western Waikato.

Massey University GIS and remote sensing support officer Matthew Irwin flies an aerial drone being used in the field research at Limestone Downs Station to develop precision fertiliser applications for hill country. Massey University professor in precision agriculture Ian Yule, along with 15 research staff, will use drones and light aircraft to scan the hill country at Limestone Downs Station near Port Waikato this week.

The project is being done in partnership between fertiliser co-operative Ravensdown and the Government and was funded by the Primary Growth Partnership. The project’s research partners are Massey University’s Precision Agriculture Group and AgResearch.

Yule’s team would be taking samples and carrying out sensor calibration to help identify what the nutrient requirements are on different parts of the station and what the likely response to fertiliser would be.

“Farmers would get much more accurate advice about how much and when the products are to be put on in an attempt to improve productivity,” he said.

These sensors will be attached to drones and light aircraft that will fly over the station. Once that information is gathered, it had to be downloaded and analysed.

“We’re still very much in the experimental research phase and we’re really trying to identify instruments that will give us the kind of answers that we are looking for,” Yule said.

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