Drones in agriculture | Landholders Driving Change

Drones and agriculture are a heavenly match.

Drone demo days highlight their value in agriculture

NQ Dry Tropics has organised two drone demonstration days to show landholders how to implement drone technology to make land management decisions that will improve long-term business success.

They will include one-on-one sessions demonstrating how to maximise the use of personal drones.  

Field Day One

  • Mt Pleasant Demonstration Site and Learning Hub.
  • Bowen.
  • Wednesday, 28 October.
  • For further information and to RSVP: Cherry Emerick: 0456 015 772.
  • Funded by the LDC Influencing Other Land Managers Activity Area.

Field Day Two

  • Greenvale Hotel.
  • Greenvale.
  • Friday, 30 October.
  • For further information and to RSVP: Carleigh Drew and Chris Poole; 4799 3500.
  • Funded by the Reef Alliance Project – Growing a Great Barrier Reef program funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust.

The agriculture industry is no stranger to embracing changing technological trends to streamline business.

The use of drones is the newest technological wave that’s helping agriculture businesses meet the changing and growing demands of the future.

Common uses of drones include real-time livestock monitoring, irrigation monitoring and management, soil and field analysis, seed planting, crop spraying and spot spraying, crop mapping and surveying.

NQ Dry Tropics is bringing together some of the best in the industry to help landholders navigate the range of uses for drones and how best to implement drones in their business.

Presenters include:

Autonomous Technology (David Baker)

  • CASA regulations and licensing considerations

OTB Spatial (Michael Kamiski)

  • Using drones in weed management (pellets)
  • Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) & forage budgeting – capability limitations to keep in mind
  • Infrastructure assessment

Grazier (Lyle Gillham)

  • Using drones in mustering

NQ Dry Tropics (Chris Poole and Daniel Hazelman)

  • Drone use in Natural Resource Management (NRM) – surveying and planning
  • Technology and programs for pipelines 

Topics covered:

  • Drones: types of product, applicability to agricultural production, ‘is it the right fit for me and will it deliver what I want?’
  • Remote sensing: NDVI, what is it and how does it work? What other resources are available using others’ drone data?
  • Drone imagery: what can you use it for? (Photo/ video monitoring, vegetation mapping, pest control, elevation for water flow).
  • Legislative requirements: what are they, when is an application required and how do I fill this out?
  • Drones in mustering: what legislative requirements are there, what sort of drone would I use?
  • Drones in mustering demonstration Lyle Gillham
  • Demonstrations: how can I best use my personal drone? (Small groups / one-on-one Q&A and instruction.)
  • Suppliers: who can I approach locally for equipment and support? When might it be smarter for me to hire someone to utilise drones on my behalf, rather than invest the time and expense of mastering them myself?
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KEQ #1

Figure 1. Total fine sediment reduction by project type and erosion source. Inset shows the proportion of the total project area for each project type.

These estimates have been calculated using two methods: 

1) The pollutant reduction component of the Alluvium/Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) investment tool for hillslope and streambank erosion management projects; 

2) The Reef Trust Gully Toolbox method for gully erosion management projects. The LDC Water Quality Report 2020 (Waterhouse et al., 2020) highlights that a number of assumptions underlay these calculations, therefore these figures should be treated as the best available estimate of sediment reductions to date.

Preventing sediment from reaching the Great Barrier Reef

Each wet season sediment is washed into local waterways and out to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). 

Most sediment is very fine, and can stay suspended for a long time and can travel great distances. Valuable topsoil is lost from production, and increased concentrations on the reef can be harmful to seagrasses and corals. 

Landholders in the BBB have completed 69 on-ground water quality practice changes, and it is estimated that these have contributed a fine sediment reduction of 6,154 tonnes per year from reaching the GBR. 

Of this, approximately half of the sediment savings are attributable to grazing land management changes on hillslopes and streambanks, and the other half as a result of gully remediation treatments across a broad range of scales, as shown in the graphs above. 

The table below also highlights the relatively small area of intervention in the gully management projects compared to the large sediment savings that these can achieve - 60 per cent of the sediment savings over only 4 per cent of the project area.

Table 1. Estimated sediment reductions (tonnes) from projects completed in the LDC Project to date.

KEQ #2

*GLMWW = Grazing Land Management Wire and Water

KEQ #3

*The Exploring New Incentives activity area has provided an opportunity for graziers to adopt improved land management practices through a range of activities. For some of these properties, it was the first time they signed contracts for on-ground works.

KEQ #4

The LDC project monitors four gully sites (represented in this table) with gold standard equipment and analysis, carried out by CSIRO.

Results have been compiled in a preliminary report from Bartley et al (2020), with the final report expected to be released by the end of 2020. The preliminary report shows all four sites have indicators of improvements, notably the Strathbogie and Mt Wickham sites.

KEQ #5

KEQ #6

KEQ #7
KEQ #8

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Reef regulations - grazing, standard conditions

  1. For land in good or fair condition (more than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), continue using measures to maintain land condition.
  2. For land in poor condition (less than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition.
  3. For land in degraded condition (less than 20 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition OR prevent areas from further degrading or expanding.
  4. Keep records of measures taken and also of agricultural chemicals, fertiliser and mill mud or mill ash applied to land.
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