A review of practices in precision application of granular fertilisers

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There is an implicit assumption in cited literature on precision agriculture (PA) that spreading of fertiliser is performed perfectly in the field leading to uniform application, this is not true. Variation can be large and often the actual performance of spreading equipment used has never been measured or verified. In various countries around the world there are quality assurance (QA) systems designed to achieve a prescribed level of performance. Even within these QA schemes limited testing is undertaken and always under perfect or near perfect conditions. The test methods are designed to establish an acceptable bout width which meets an acceptable evenness of spread if driven accurately. The test does not take into account wind conditions (except for requiring less than 15kmhr-1 for testing), humidity, slope, terrain or the instrumentation to maintain the desired bout width. This paper examines the effect of the farm environment and the physical characteristics of fertilisers on the spread patterns of fertilisers in the field. Fertilisers with heterogeneous particle size distributions proved to have more robust spread patterns under field conditions than those with homogeneous particle size distributions.