The Australian grains and cotton industries have announced a US $ 4.07 million investment to help minimise spray drift through a five-year partnership with Australian agtech company Goanna Ag.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC), in partnership with Goanna Ag, will develop a spray drift hazardous weather warning system that should provide real-time weather data and alerts to growers and spray operators about the presence of temperature inversions.
Hazardous surface temperature inversions occur when air temperature increases with height from the ground surface, leaving a layer of cool air trapped below warm air. In this situation droplets can remain suspended in the inversion layer in concentrated form and be carried significant distances from the target area.
Goanna Ag will establish, operate and maintain a network of 100 Profiling Automatic Weather Stations (PAWS) across the grain and cotton regions of New South Wales and southern and central Queensland. These PAWS have remote sensing capability and new proprietary software to provide growers and spray contractors real-time weather data every 10 minutes.
It is important for growers and spray contractors to be able to accurately identify the presence of hazardous temperature inversions. That will reduce the spray drift risk for them. Currently regulations do not permit spraying agricultural chemicals when hazardous surface temperature inversions are present.
The network will provide a 24-hour forecast of hazardous temperature inversions periods, broken into two hourly segments. This will significantly help growers and spray contractors to plan the logistics of spray operations.
The PAWS warning system builds on breakthrough research, conducted and published by Drs Graeme Tepper and Warwick Grace with support from GRDC and CRDC, and will be operational in time for the 2022-2023 summer cropping season.
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According to GRDC Chair John Woods the warning system would improve on-farm decision making. “Until recently, there has been no reliable and accurate method to determine when inversion conditions are hazardous for agricultural spraying using real time data”, Mr Woods says.
“These hazardous inversion conditions exist most nights of the year for undefined periods, so we need to have the ability to know exactly when they are occurring and stop spraying. The warning system will provide this critical information.” Mr Woods says the initiative will deliver innovative, new technology for the agricultural industry as a whole.
CRDC’s Executive Director Dr Ian Taylor says spray drift is a significant issue for agriculture and the wider community. “Reducing its potential and impact is critical”, he emphasises. “As research leaders, our organisations are committed to investing in research that supports improved on-farm practices and the sustainability of agriculture.”
A study conducted by AgEcon found that the warning system could help reduce the impact of spray drift onto sensitive crops, while also increasing chemical efficacy and improving labour and machinery productivity on farm. “In cotton alone, the warning system could help the industry avoid AUS $ 40 million (US $ 30 million) in losses and costs associated with spray drift over five years”, Mr Taylor says.
CEO Alicia Garden of Goanna Ag points out that every hectare of the New South Wales broadacre cropping belt is already within 25km of a Goanna Ag automatic weather station, providing local and accurate information to growers.