Cotton Landcare Tech Innovations: Improved natural capital (biodiversity) on Australian cotton farms

Abstract

The aim of this research project was to produce a proof-of-concept system for the automated monitoring of target species of bird and bat in Australian cotton landscapes. The project consisted of three key components: 

 

  1. Identify species of bird and bat that hep farmers manage on-farm biodiversity 
  2. Create automated systems capable of accurately identifying the target bird and bat species 
  3. Develop acoustic recorders for deployment in cotton growing regions that automate monitoring of target biodiversity. 
  4. Create an online system that allows growers to visualise their in-farm biodiversity 

 

We have created a series of machine-learning (AI) based systems (using convolutional neural networks) capable of identifying 6 species of bird and 10 species or species groups of bat that inhabit the cotton growing regions of Australia. Each species has been selected because of the ecological and behavioural role it plays in the landscape. These recognition systems have been embedded in a field-deployable, rugged, automated, solar-powered, internet-connected audio monitoring device with results uploaded to the cloud. Once in the cloud, farmers can view biodiversity information relevant to their farm via their web browser. Farmers without internet access on their farms can use small, cheap audio recorders that require a level of human intervention before biodiversity results can be made available. 

 

To our knowledge, we have created the first autonomous acoustic species identification system for birds and bats with online reporting in the world. 

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NLP1901

Potential for Broadacre Cropping in the NT

Abstract

Cooperative Research Centre for developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) commissioned the project for assessment oftheland, water and climate of the Northern Territory for commercial production of cotton and grain crops. Cotton Research and Development Cooperation (CRDC) and Grains Research and Development Cooperation (GRDC) co-contributed in project design and financial allocations. The project implementation was led by the Northern Territory Government Department of Industry Tourism and Trade, and project collaborators included the Northern Territory Farmers Association Inc (NT Farmers), Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security (DEPWS) of the Northern Territory Government, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) of the Queensland Government, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), University of Southern Queensland (USQ), and commercial stakeholders of the Northern Territory's plant-based industries. Specifically, the project aimed to identify potential crops, the timing and length of the potential cropping windows, and the impacts of climate and edaphic conditions on yield and quality. Where accessible, any historical data of previous cropping trials conducted in the Northern Territory was acquired. Field trials were established at Northern Territory Government's research farms and commercial properties. These data were used to determine the productivity of broadacre cropping systems by applying Agricultural Production Systems sIMulator (APSIM) - to investigate how a range of crop species will perform in terms of production and risk profile across the trial sites. Validation trials were conducted under rainfed and irrigated planting systems.

Validation trials included an intensive in-crop sampling and monitoring protocol to match simulated output to actual plant growth dynamics. This included soil sampling to at least 1.5 m with full soil water characteristics being determined. Above ground plant data collected in-crop included crop management records, full phenological monitoring, and at determined intervals leaf area, biomass, plant population and light interception, and crop yields.

The natural resource database determined the possibility of sowing crops during the breaks in the wet season - that allows the crops to best capture wet season rainfall and thus have sufficient soil moisture to carry a crop through to harvest. Soil type was found be a strong determinant of this strategy. The project findings suggest that the natural resource database to enable simulated productivity be measured on a regional scale to provide detailed indication of industry's potential to expand into commercial broadacre farming.

The APSIM modelled output for cotton and peanut provided an initial indication of the potential and extent of possible broadacre agriculture across the Northern Territory. The APSIM analysis was also trialled by adapting proven online tools (CropARM) as a resource to allow stakeholders to assess cropping options in the Northern Territory. Since the crop simulations allow for virtual cropping over numerous years the impact of the highly variable Northern Territory weather on year to year viability of cropping can be assessed. This will allow for economic analysis to be completed to understand the financial implications for investing in this form of agriculture. This information will help to direct future agricultural RD&E in the Territory. Further this will assist planners to understand the infrastructure required to support this potential cropping industry. To this end, the virtual cropping has highlighted some issues and knowledge gaps that will require further research to answer, hence overcoming a shortage of learned experience regarding broadacre cropping in the Northern Territory. Finally, in addition to the field trials and modelling, the project addressed the low local knowledge of farming by providing advice and back-up for multiple on-farm commercial trial plantings of both cotton and grains crops. These trials acted as assessment sites for crop simulations, learning sites for the farms concerned and as demonstration sites to extend cropping practice to other local producers.

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ISBN 978-1-922347-50-1
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CRCNA2001

CRDC Cotton Grower Survey 2023

Abstract

CRDC undertakes an annual survey of cotton growers to gather information about farming practices and growers’ views on research, development and extension. This information helps to inform CRDC about the benefits of the research it invests in. Change in industry practice can be quantified by comparing information across the surveys conducted over the past 20 years.

Previous surveys have included a number of core annual questions and then a number of focus areas to investigate specific aspects of the farming system.

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Sponsorship: GrowAg Summit 2016

Abstract

In September 2016, the best and brightest of Australian ag's emerging young leaders gathered at the GrowAg Summit in Albury, NSW to hear from government, industry and peers working across the fields of agribusiness, education, technology, finance and leadership.

GrowAg identified 108 emerging leaders from around Australia for inclusion in the program. It heralded a new generation of innovative thinking and problem solving as the group looked at challenges that have the potential to disrupt Australian agriculture over the next few years.

The program was deliberately set to challenge traditional views and practices in agriculture as delegates were encouraged to not only learn about new innovations – but to consider what they need to do right now to capitalise on developments in technology, smart business and leadership.

The three-day ‘think tank’ explored:
 how Australian agribusiness can best capitalise on global opportunities
 future innovations in technologies, markets, and products that are transforming Australian agribusiness; and
 the most effective ways to develop capable and diverse leaders needed to steer Australian agriculture into the future

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RIRDC1703

Science Leadership for cotton in northern Australia

Abstract

The title of this project “Science leadership for cotton development in Northern Australia” required technical support for new cotton industries across a huge (1/3 of Australia) new and different region, climatically, biologically and culturally. As anyone associated with cotton in Australia knows since the end of 2019 investment and test farming of cotton in the tropical north was massive. To be efficient and effective in this environment with a small team this project has minimised overlap with other cotton projects, delivered resources and information collated from past northern cotton and relevant other broad acre crop R&D, entered into partnerships with local agencies / farmer groups e.g. CRCNA collaboration in the NT. Flexibility to address new issues was required e.g. the partnership with Vanderfield, CSD and the CRCNA project to address establishment challenges with rain grown cotton. From the onset assisting local technical skill development was a key activity, this encompassed research, crop monitoring and crop management and natural resources (suitable soils).

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CSP1903

On-farm evaluation of pumping telemetry

Abstract

Every operator has a slightly different requirement from technology due to their location, size, setup, and types of equipment being used all impact the type of systems that can be utilised.  Another factor is the existing telecommunications network if there is adequate 4G signal for example then the options are much broader.  Therefore this study has found, there is no off-the-shelf solution that will suit everyone and there is a need for a reliable supplier to be able to piece together a sufficient solution. 

When developing a scope of work it is important to be clear and concise about the specific requirements of your operation, and to keep a long-term view regarding desired future expansions and how and when you might want to upscale the telemetry or technology towards automation. This is mainly due to such systems being pieced together and the installer not having advanced experience and proficiency with some third-party technology suppliers. 

A further consideration is the type of connectivity available on the farm to enable these digital technologies now and building in the future. 

This project has demonstrated that the Cotton Industry can take advantage of technology to reduce man hours, minimising personal risk, while improving efficiencies to benefit the environment as well as the operation financially.  

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CGA2002

Precision Management for Improved Cotton Quality

Abstract

To identify where existing or new sensor technologies coupled with knowledge of fibre development and environmental influences, can be used to better manage cotton crops and the interface between the end of crop production and post-harvest handling/ processing, to improve cotton fibre quality.

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CMSE1802

Improving cotton productivity with crop nutrition

Abstract

Soil Organic Carbon

Incorporated stubble retained more than twice as much stubble-C compared with surface applied stubble. The N contained in surface-applied stubble was mostly recovered. With warm temperatures, the incorporated stubble promoted substantial biological N fixation, and indicated that up to 150 kg N/ha may be fixed where stubble is incorporated. Stubble applied to the soil surface reduced water loss. This helps explain the rates of C sequestration reported by Rochester (2011) in his field experiment where all stubble was incorporated.

Timing of Nitrogen

The timing of nitrogen trials (TON) provided clear information in regard to both the timing of nitrogen and varietal response to uptake and answered the question about splitting applications or when to apply N upfront. The TON trials showed that there was no statistical difference in splitting nitrogen application in regard to yield. In regard to splitting the applications or supplying N upfront from September to January, there was no statistical difference. It was therefore concluded that supplying N upfront prior to sowing provides the same yield compared to split or late upfront application dates. This is very reassuring information for the industry. The impact would be significant as there would be a reduction in labour and machinery cost (diesel) as well as NO emissions from over supplied N during splitting/fertigating during the season. The outcome of this research provides both an economical and environmental benefit.

Extension of the Research

Research outcomes have been communicated to industry via phone and email enquiries, Spotlight and Cotton grower magazine articles, technical advice given through the NUTRIpak webpage and NutriLOGIC decision support system and via the industry’s extension networks. The 2014 cotton conference and subsequent Nitrogen management workshop provided the industry with up-to date reports and discussions on the best management practices for the cotton industry.

The final conclusion from the research was that long term high-yielding cotton crops can be produced without high N fertiliser inputs, or excessive water use.

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CSP1403