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Field day to emphasize precision ag

By John O’Connell

Capital Press

A new field day seeks to promote precision agriculture in the Pacific Northwest.

New equipment and research to help agricultural producers better adjust to variability throughout their fields will be featured June 5 at the University of Idaho’s Parker Farm during the region’s first field day devoted to precision agriculture.

The field day will be sponsored by Regional Approaches to Climate Change in Pacific Northwest Agriculture — a USDA-funded partnership of UI, Washington State University, Oregon State University and USDA Agricultural Research Service promoting efficient and climate-friendly farming practices.

Admission is free to the field day, scheduled for 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the experimental farm, located a mile east of Moscow. A lunch will be provided by sponsors ATI Solutions, CHS Primeland and Decagon Devices, which will also be showing off their latest soil monitors and variable-rate equipment for applying lime, fertilizer and chemicals.

Organizer Kristy Borreli, REACCH extension specialist, said producers face a steep learning curve in implementing precision agriculture, and the event should bring people involved in the practice together to share ideas. Borreli believes the “wave of the future” is using precision technology to scout fields.

At 9:15 a.m., Idaho grain grower Robert Blair and Dev Shrestha, a UI associate professor in biological and agricultural engineering, will discuss using unmanned aerial systems to monitor fields. At 9:45 a.m. Troy Magney and Lee Vierling, with UI’s Department of Forest, Rangeland and Fire Sciences, will present on satellite remote sensing for nutrient management and crop performance. At 10:15 a.m. Matteo Poggio and Dave Brown, with WSU’s crop and soil sciences department, will discuss the use of soil sensors to more efficiently map field conditions in grids. At 11:15 a.m., Robert Heinse, a UI associate professor of soil physics, and Erin Brooks a UI research support scientist, will discuss the use of sensors for soil moisture monitoring.

During lunch, speakers from conservation districts will discuss programs available to support growers getting started in precision agriculture.

REACCH is in the fourth year of a five-year grant. Borreli expects the field day to be a one-time event.

Brown, a WSU soil scientist who serves as project director of the USDA-funded Site Specific Climate-Friendly Farming project, which works closely with REACCH, said his program will present research into LIDAR applications. The technology measures distance and creates maps by analyzing laser light bounced off a target.

“We have a ground-based LIDAR that gives a 3D image of a crop and shows how different parts of the field are progressing,” Brown said.

His team is also utilizing satellite optical imagery to map areas of nitrogen and water stress. With ground sensors, his research has focused on using oscillating, electromagnetic fields to analyze salt, moisture, clay and even nitrate content in soil. He’s also utilizing probes that analyze soil with infrared light. The probes should enable farmers to develop variable-rate maps far more efficiently, requiring only a few core samples for calibration. His team’s site-specific fertility trials seek to help growers better manage nitrogen application, seeding density and irrigation.


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