Article featured on page 20 & 21 in Irrigation Australia Winter 2022.
The Yield is an Australian agricultural technology company that uses microclimate sensors and gridded weather data to monitor the local climate experienced by high-value plants such as tree crops, vines, nuts and herbs.
The Yield then combines this weather and growing conditions data with customer data to predict microclimate up to three days in advance, and to help the grower with on-farm decision making including harvest timing, optimising labour resources and equipment, and activities such as irrigation and spray.
John and Julie Summers, who operate a mixed farm, including 43 ha of wine grape vineyard, at Padthaway, South Australia, have partnered with The Yield and have been using their crop recommendation and harvest prediction tools for more than three years now.
MORE SUSTAINABLE FARMING
As is often the case for Australian farmers, John and Julie face complex daily decision-making around how best to produce high quality, healthy produce, given the condition of the plant, soil well-being and daily soil moisture levels. It’s a very technical process and requires a strong working knowledge of the various sciences involved, along with the many parameters with which to measure how it is all going each day.
“Our Cardiness Vineyard enjoys a reliable, high quality underground source of drip water irrigation. The supply is finite, however, so we aim to use only what our vines need each day throughout the wine grape growing season,” John said.
Determining the daily water needs of the vines is complicated by the different soil profiles throughout the farm. Varying levels of sand and clay among blocks means that irrigation requirements differ around the farm.
In 2019, the Summers started using The Yield. Most apps of this kind give an average forecast across a larger gridded area, which doesn’t necessarily reflect the true conditions for specific locations within a property. Using its microclimate sensing system (MCSS), The Yield takes measurements every 15 minutes in different locations within a farm and compares and combines this information with data from the gridded system to provide accurate forecasts for different areas within a farm.
Topographical variations mean that some blocks are particularly susceptible to frost. With the app, which can be customised, John and Julie are pre-warned of possible temperature extremes and can plan ahead to mitigate crop damage due to frost or hot weather heat spikes.
ENHANCED DECISION MAKING POWERED BY DATA AND INSIGHTS
The solution provides valuable data and insights to power John and Julie’s decision-making regarding on-farm activities. John reports that it allows them to stay well ahead of what their vines actually require, rather than being reactive and sometimes behind the game.
John says the soil moisture and temperature data coming from varying depth probes within the platform is very interesting, particularly in terms of how it correlates with what the vines are telling them visually.
“Block 4 (with a lighter soil profile) showed a very rapid response from irrigation - almost to full depth. While Block2 (with a limestone over higher clay profile) showed very slow penetration from watering. This is very meaningful – it shows we need to adjust our watering of different blocks accordingly,” he said.
The onsite weather station and 14-day gridded weather forecast feature have also helped John and Julie to determine irrigation levels, relative to vine requirements, and at certain stages of the growth cycle. They can now more effectively balance the vine requirements, weather and irrigation, and plan accordingly.
See full article on page 6 & 7 in an abridged version of the Irrigation Australia Journal - Winter 2022.