Precision Agriculture attended the 2022 Australian Almond Conference in Adelaide last week. The main theme of the conference was “Growing more with less”, driven by a unique combination of high input costs due to record fertiliser prices and low global almond prices due to a record carry-out in the US. Dr. Patrick Brown, Professor of Plant Nutrition at the University of California, presented on the significant levels of variability within almond orchards – specifically nitrogen and potassium, which are the two primary fertiliser inputs each season. By measuring and addressing the variability within orchards, the correct rates of potassium and nitrogen fertilisers can be better applied. Whilst this approach is relatively new to the permanent-tree sector, it’s already being used in other agricultural sectors given the rising cost of land and farm inputs.
As an example of this, we recently conducted detailed soil mapping work across some large-scale almond orchards in the NSW Riverina. This was done using our EM38 technology to highlight the variability in soil texture and create soil management zones, with those zones then ground-truthed using a multi-depth targeted soil sampling program. This exercise identified a significant difference in levels of soil sodicity across the orchard, as well as down the soil profile. Soil sodicity can lead to reduced flow of water through soil, dispersion in the soil surface – causing crusting and sealing, which then impedes water infiltration and dispersion in the subsoil – and accelerate soil erosion, which can cause the incidence of gullies and tunnels.
This detailed assessment enabled Precision Ag to create a targeted variable rate gypsum strategy to address the areas of the orchard with higher levels of soil sodicity. Rather than apply the gypsum at a standard blanket rate, the customer is now able to allocate the product to areas of need and still use a similar total volume of gypsum in doing so.
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