Precision agriculture's first aerial variable rate demonstration is scheduled for a July 26 field day in Kings County, Calif., where the latest precision ag technology will be featured.

Organized by Kings County, Calif., University of California Cooperative Farm Advisor Bruce Roberts and his Tulare County counterpart Steve Wright, the half day event at the Ted Sheely Farm in Stratford, Calif., will feature presentations by a host of scientists who have been using Sheely's diversified farm as a proving grounds for precision ag technology.

Sheely's farm is on the Avenal Cutoff off Highway 198 in Western Kings County. Registration begins at 8 a.m. with the program concluding at 11 a.m. The field day is free, and there will be no lunch served.

There have been a wide array of variable rate technologies used successfully on Sheely's farm as part of a program called Ag 20/20 involving several federal and state agencies. So far all variable applications have been with ground applicators.

“We are planning on demonstrating the first aerial variable rate technology at this event,” said Roberts. This will involve a computer installed in an aerial applicator, which will vary the flow rate from the airplane's application nozzles based on aerial field map loaded into the computer.

Based on aerial mapping

Variable rate technology is focused on applying pesticides, planting seeds, herbicides, soil amendments, plant growth regulators and fertilizers at various rates across a field based on aerial mapping of fields that reflect the varying conditions of soil and plants across a field.

Fields and crops are far from uniform across standard 160-acre blocks, but farmers have not until now had technology available to match applications to the non-uniform field conditions.

The equipment and guidance systems used on Sheely's farm will be on display on July 26, and there will be presentations on:

  • Precision Ag Tools and Technology: Dr. John Ojala, USDA-ARS Shafter.

  • Remote Sensing, Naham Gat, OKSi Corp.

  • Variable Rate Soil Amendments, Dr. Richard Plant, UC Davis Agronomy.

  • Variable Seeding Rates/Variable Rate Fertilizers: Bruce Roberts and Brock Taylor, Beeline Technologies.

  • Technology Applications and Opportunities: Dr. Susan Ustin, UC Davis.

  • Pest Management Trials: Dr. Larry Godfrey, UC Davis Entomology.

  • Variable Rate Growth Regulator Trials: Matt Bethel, NASA Stennis Research Center.

  • Grower's Perspective on Variable Rate Technology: Ted Sheely.

“We have planned only a half day program because we know it will be hot that day, but we feel it is important to let growers, pest control advisers and others see the ongoing work at Ted's farm,” said Roberts.

“We'll move the program along quickly and let everyone go before lunch,” said Roberts.

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com