Velcourt backs GPS satellite technology as management aid

9 January 1998

Velcourt backs GPS satellite technology as management aid

A LEADING farm management company has thrown its weight behind space age technology to ease crop management.

The project will help evaluate the scope for a dedicated agronomic satellite which would assess crop growth, health, potential yield and even quality. "The idea is to make large areas of crop easier to manage," says Keith Norman, technical director of Velcourt.

PAAGE (Pilot Project for Agriculture and Agri-Environment) is a 15-month pan-European project funded by the EU Commission.

The system scans crops using infra-red analysis to a resolution of 1m. "By getting an accurate picture of crop growth stage and leaf area index, farmers will be able to prioritise their workloads," says Mr Norman. That will enable accurate timing of nitrogen, growth regulator and fungicide inputs without the need to walk large areas of crop. The project could also include a forecasting element by identifying the presence of established disease and insect infestations in nearby areas, he adds.

Wheat has been chosen for the initial study. Velcourt has established large scale trials to assess the accuracy of the satellite imagery.

Plots sown at different dates and seed rates will be treated with differing inputs. Crops will be sampled through the season to determine a range of plant and grain characteristics and they will be inspected for pests and diseases. Pictures obtained by the satellite technology will be compared with the trial results to see how well the images reflect what is happening on the ground.

"Anything that gives an overall insight to a farming business by assessing every field on one day will give huge benefits, if the information is accurate and sufficiently regular," says Mr Norman. &#42

Checking crop development from space is an agronomy aid Velcourt hopes will allow accurate input timing without the footwork, says Keith Norman.

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