Ground-breaking algorithm redefines early-season canopy temperature measurements for cotton irrigation

University of Southern Queensland researcher Dr Alison McCarthy research breakthrough

The Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) has successfully facilitated the commercialisation of ground-breaking research by the University of Southern Queensland’s (UniSQ) Centre for Agricultural Engineering, empowering cotton growers to optimise irrigation scheduling from the crucial first irrigation.

Through collaborative efforts between CRDC, Australia’s national science agency CSIRO, the University of Southern Queensland, and the Smarter Irrigation for Profit program, an algorithm has been licensed to Goanna Ag, providing a vital tool to support growers in their irrigation decision-making process.

The introduction of a new algorithm, pioneered by UniSQ mechatronic engineer Dr Alison McCarthy, marks a significant advancement in this field. Leveraging multiarray sensors, this state-of-the-art solution distinguishes between canopy and bare soil temperatures.

This advancement allows for early-season canopy temperature measurements, particularly pertinent for the crucial first irrigation, while eliminating the necessity to adjust the height of sensors throughout the crop’s growth cycle.

“It is exciting for my research with CRDC to be commercialised and available to growers in the coming cotton season. The collaboration across institutions and geographic locations in the Smarter Irrigation for Profit program enabled us to develop and test the algorithm under a range of conditions,” Dr McCarthy said.

“The algorithm linked to Goanna Ag’s GoField service will even further broaden the applications for canopy sensing technology, as well as save labour and improve precision in sensing for irrigation management.”

This innovative solution builds upon the remarkable achievements of previous research conducted by CSIRO in conjunction with CRDC. The initial study involved the development of stress-time thresholds for cotton irrigation timing, primarily relying on canopy temperature measurements. The original algorithm, created by the esteemed CSIRO team at the Australian Cotton Research Institute, was subsequently made available through Goanna Ag in 2019. This technology has since enhanced irrigation practices within the cotton industry.

“The initial irrigation decision, especially during the early growth stages, has historically posed challenges for growers due to limited technological support. Traditional methods, such as visual inspections and soil probes, proved unreliable. The cutting-edge innovation presented by Dr McCarthy’s algorithm fills this gap by providing decision support for the critical first irrigation stage.” Alicia Garden, CEO Goanna Ag.

The commercialisation of this research through Goanna Ag not only enriches grower decision-making capabilities but also improves water use efficiency within the cotton industry. Goanna Ag will incorporate this technique into its flagship GoField service, offering cotton growers a comprehensive and effective solution to optimise irrigation events.

“While the immediate impact of this technology is evident within the cotton industry, it is anticipated that the new technique may find application in other crops, such as legumes, further expanding its reach and benefits to agricultural communities,” said Susan Maas, Innovation Broker with CRDC.

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