OptiSurface Landforming Software - A Boon For NZ Farmer

OptiSurface Landforming Software – A Boon For NZ Farmer

Australian Landforming Software Boon to Kiwi Farmer

as seen in Ag Contractor & Large Scale Farmer January/February 2017 Issue 98




North Island farmer Jason Easton grows potatoes, onions,  maize  grain  and  maize silage on 160 hectares in the Manawatu district. The farm is 280 hectares in total, with the balance  of land grassed down for livestock and cropping fields rotated.

Jason uses a high-tech combination of his 4AG Hercules levelling blade with Trimble GPS and land-forming software from Queensland company Davco OptiSurface.

4AG product development manager Brent Raikes says by combining the three leading products  Jason can get the  perfect  fall of water on his land, which he could not do with laser levelling.

“Our Hercules blade is extremely robust, and when used with Trimble GPS land levelling and then optimised by OptiSurface, it allows Jason to prepare ground in a way that is virtually a form of crop insurance against high rainfall events,” Brent says.

“By optimising his land levels to 3D drainage in his clay soils he has the perfect fall of water off his fields. Big rainfall events where Jason farms have the potential  to wipe out 5-10 percent of high-value crops like onions, which can cost $5500-$6500 a hectare  to grow.”

Brent says if you consider  a five percent loss on 100 hectares of onions, you could pay off the investment in a 5.0m Hercules blade and the associated land levelling technology in around 3.5 years.

OptiSurface was developed to provide higher yields, better quality crops and more profit by minimising water logging and improving the infiltration and distribution of water. This is especially important in irrigated country. Using OptiSurface can improve the establishment and uniformity of crops and reduce weeds.

“As the tractor drives along the paddock with the blade up it picks up all the levels from the GPS satellite and forms a map of the paddock,” says Brent.

“The same GPS receiver on the blade can also be mounted  on an RTV for doing surveys, if it’s being set up for a contractor. The farmer does 5.0m, or 10m runs back and forth up the paddock, which gives him a cut-and-fill topography map of the paddock, with all the highs and lows and tells him where to pull the soil from one place and put it on another.” Jason only has a fall of about 80cm across his entire farm, which makes it difficult to achieve precise falls and levels just with GPS.

“By using the OptiSurface software, he can do even better. The Trimble map is uploaded and sent to OptiSurface, which then optimises it for water to flow in every direction,”
Brent says.

“It literally cuts the map up like a diamond and shows you the best way to achieve the right fall of water. It means you can optimise the map even better  than the existing GPS system.”

Jason was previously using contractors for land levelling, but found it expensive  and difficult to get them exactly when he wanted them. He now sends his map to OptiSurface and tells them what he wants. They then optimise the fall he needs and the direction.

“In the last few weeks, with the amount of rain we’ve had, we’ve seen a huge number of benefits because there’s no ponding,” he says.

“We have heavy silt clay with not much fall, so dips and hollows tend to pond really easily. It will mean there’s less crop disease now and we can get on the paddocks quicker after rain. It will make a big difference to our productivity.”

Jason has used the 4AG blade and levelling system on 50 hectares to date, and plans to keep  doing three  or four paddocks  a year until his farm has been completely levelled.

He says OptiSurface is superior to and quicker than laser levelling and is up to 80 percent cheaper, with much less removal of topsoil. It has cut back the amount of dirt he shifts by about half.

“To survey and map a big field costs  me about a day’s work in each paddock, by the time files are downloaded and optimised via an email to OptiSurface in Australia. But it saves me two or three days’ work at the other end. Moving 70 percent less soil is the norm and we are getting better yields.”

The system has been simple to learn and is just an extension of Jason’s GPS and autosteer functions.

Brent says it’s the combination of the 4AG Hercules blade,  Trimble GPS and  OptiSurface software that has been so successful for Jason.

“You need a big wide blade to cut and move the soil around. It needs to be strong to cut and to carry 8.0m3  of soil, so you need a big tractor.

“Jason has set his system up with a receiver on top of the blade. It senses the levels as it goes around and it links to a map in the tractor which tells him where he needs to drive in the paddock.

“The Trimble system automatically sets the height of the blade to knock the high spots off to fill the hollows, but you can do a manual override if you need to,” Brent says.

4AG offer these blades in working widths of 4.5m, 5.0m and 6.0m and all blades fold for transport to within road regulations  in New Zealand, which is 3.2m. The blades  have a very simple fold mechanism that keeps the strength  and integrity of the blade  cutting edge intact.

The 4AG blades will work with both Green Star and Trimble systems.  For further information contact Brent Raikes at brent@4ag. co.nz.