Regional Climate Project Sets Precision Ag Demo Day Near Moscow

Tuesday, May 13 2014

MOSCOW, Idaho – May 9, 2014 – Drones, satellite mapping and other high technology will be featured during the Precision Agriculture Technology Demonstration Day at the University of Idaho’s Parker Farm a mile east of Moscow June 5.

Sponsored by the USDA-funded Regional Approaches to Climate Change in Pacific Northwest Agriculture (REACCH) and partners, the workshop will offer producers and others a look at precision agricultural technologies. The goal is to help farmers increase efficiency, cut costs and promote climate-friendly farming practices.

Kristy Borrelli, the REACCH project’s UI Extension specialist, said the day’s focus on using tools such as GIS and drones can help farmers fine tune their use of nitrogen fertilizer, water, pesticides and fuel.

“Because precision ag satisfies so much of what REACCH is focusing on, sequestering carbon and reducing nitrogen inputs, all those things that can help mitigate climate change, it was a good topic to focus on,” Borrelli said. The topic also ties in with other research projects in the region that focus on climate-friendly farming practices.

“The other part of focusing on precision ag is people are wildly interested in it,” she said. Everyone from young farmers to conservation districts to people who have been farming for a while, and industry representatives want to know more.

Saving money by tailoring fertilizer applications to field zones where yield potential is higher or lower is important. Borrelli said, “If you think of it from the environmental perspective, too, why fertilize when you don’t have to? If it’s not going out in your yields and your protein content, it’s being lost. And that is not only money, it has the potential to be a pollutant, too.”

Nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, also can form in waterlogged fields. More common problems can be leaching and nitrates reaching drinking water or promoting algae growth, or urea fertilizers breaking down and releasing nitrogen directly into the air.

“It’s also to save growers time and effort by using technology for field scouting. So they’re talking about using drones or remote sensing with satellite imagery,” she said.

The technological possibilities have outrun the science, so researchers are trying to help farmers develop some standard practices to produce more consistent results.

“They’re doing it, but the software is expensive, the equipment is expensive and the learning curve is big,” she said. “So that kind of thing just stops some people in their tracks. It’s intimidating from a scientific perspective of how things can vary.”

The demonstration day will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Parker Farm unit of the Palouse Research, Extension and Education Center operated by the UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. The event is free and open to the public.

Credits for certified crop advisors and pesticide applicator recertification will be available.

The June 5 demo day is part of the REACCHPNA project’s effort to gather information important to understand potential climate change effects on Inland Northwest wheat production, and to inform growers of potential strategies to adapt.

The $20 million, five-year project is in its fourth year and is led by UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences entomologist Sanford Eigenbrode. It draws together more than 60 scientists from the University of Idaho, Oregon State University, Washington State University and the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

The event is co-sponsored by the WSU-based Site-specific Climate-friendly Farming project and the USDA Agricultural Research Service. The noon luncheon is sponsored by CHS Primeland and Decagon Devices of Pullman.

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