“Will the future of farming look more like Star Trek than Footrot Flats, with drones, probes and farmers behind screens rather than tractor wheels?,” asks Gemma Carroll, Communications & Engagement Officer at Potatoes NZ in a recent article published on the PNZ website.
“New Zealand potato growers produce a reliable yield, with a great deal of hardwork and many growers also rotate their crops with other vegetables, which means at times, other heavy feeder crops, may reduce soil nutrients and result in a seemingly good potato yield, yet lacking essential nutrients. In addition, we know NZ soils are naturally deficient in certain nutrients,” Gemma writes.
In addition to the tried and true methods of testing nutrient levels in soil, it is useful to look at a further under-utilized tool – plant analysis. A regular leaf analysis monitoring programme can remove the guesswork and is a sound risk-management tool, however using smart technology to analyse plants in the future may save farmers time and money.
PNZ is undertaking trials of hyperspectral imaging using drones, Gemma writes. “This new tool, linked to our precision agriculture methodologies, meaning farmers will apply fertilizer only to deficient areas within paddocks.”
PNZ is also currently trialing electronic probes in three locations, to provide live data on various soil conditions. One of the ways these probes will assist farmers, is by indicating nutrient levels, so it is then clear how much fertilizer to apply and where in the paddock it is needed.
“The future of potato farming is looking smart,” Gemma says, “with these new tools just on the horizon and NZ leading the way with exploring the benefits of Teralytic probes, by being the first country outside the US to have them in the field.”