Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Houma, Louisiana » Sugarcane Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #252855

Title: Precision agriculture research in the Louisiana sugarcane industry: Where are we now?

item Johnson, Richard
item Viator, Ryan
item PRICE, RANDY - Kansas State University
item Richard Jr, Edward

Submitted to: Sugar Journal
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/20/2010
Publication Date: 6/20/2010
Citation: Johnson, R.M., Viator, R.P., Price, R.R., Richard Jr, E.P. 2010. Precision agriculture research in the Louisiana sugarcane industry: Where are we now?. Sugar Journal. 73:34-36.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Louisiana sugarcane producers continue to search for ways to increase production efficiency and decrease costs, while maintaining or even increasing yields. One way in which this may be potentially accomplished is through the adoption of Precision Agriculture (PA) techniques. In 2008, a study was initiated to evaluate a new harvester-mounted cane yield monitor that utilized optical sensors on the harvester’s elevator to estimate yields. In small plot tests where we compared the weights obtained using a weigh wagon equipped with electronic load cells to the weights estimated with the optical sensor as cane was passing in the elevator we obtained an average prediction error of approximately 7.5% for loads varying from 0.6 to 1.8 tons. In 2009, when the yield monitor was evaluated on a commercial farm by comparing estimated weights to the weight of cane delivered to the mill for processing, we obtained an average prediction error of 2.5% for loads ranging from 20 to 24 tonnes. The error could be further reduced if several loads were used to re-calibrate the system on a daily basis. In a separate study conducted on a commercial farm in Schriever, LA, a Veris® Multi-Sensor Platform was utilized to collect soil EC and pH data from a 25-ha fallow, sugarcane field. A high degree of variability was documented with soil pH varying from 4.5 to 7.4 and soil EC from 0 to 80 mS m-1. Finally, aerial imagery was obtained from two large sugarcane fields in Southeast Louisiana and this imagery was used to develop maps that described the variability in plant biomass and also identified areas of the field that had been fertilized with different rates of nitrogen ranging from 0 to 179 kg N ha-1. The maps illustrating biomass variability were well correlated with yield maps developed from actual cane weights taken from the same fields and areas undergoing nitrogen stress could also be easily identified by comparing the acquired imagery to fertilizer application maps. This combined research suggests that PA management techniques may offer Louisiana sugarcane producers several new options that may help them improve harvest management, identify yield limiting areas of a field that require additional inputs and improve yield uniformity.