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Using the Lay of the Land to Let Water Drain From A Field


How can we best use the lay of the land to let water drain from a field?


Prior to 1996 we were stuck with lasers as the way to control machine blades for landforming/land grading. Lasers were a great innovation but were too rigid and constrained because not much agricultural land is shaped like a single plane (perfectly flat) in shape (Note: Dual grade laser still projects a single plane). This means lasers are not suitable for improving surface drainage on most of agricultural land because you needed to shift too much earth to achieve the surface.

Over the last 5 years GPS has become so accurate that is has become possible to shape the land surface to any 3 dimensional shape you want. We in our farming operation were looking to take advantage of this (actually since about 1996 when Spectra Precision Geostar combined low accuracy GPS with lasers) to develop a new 5000ha farm for drip and lateral move irrigation in North Queensland. 

The missing link was some computer software that could take full advantage of the new machine control hardware. When we could not find it we set out to come up with our own an that is how OptiSurface was born. Our need was to follow the natural lay of the land as closely as possible but ensure our fields drain after heavy rainfall whist moving the lowest possible amount of soil to achieve this. That's exactly what it does. 

You basically import your survey of field elevations and tell the software the surface type you want (eg for furrowed/beds cropping (must drain along furrow) or non furrowed cropping (can drain in any direction), the minimum grade and some others if you want (eg Maximum grade, smoothing factor, etc) and the software will calculate the ground surface (elevations) every say 10m (30 ft) that ensures all areas of the field are falling with at least the minimum grade towards the field boundary. You then upload that design into the 3D GPS machine control hardware on the tractor and start work.

I hope that sheds some light on how it works. Let me know if it does and if you have any other questions?

Graeme Cox
Davco OptiSurface Pty Ltd

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