Precision Agriculture: The Biggest Thing Since Sliced Bread?

It is more than likely that if you are directly involved in the rural world at some point you’ve heard circa precision agriculture. Just like the tablet computers today, or the Macarena in the 1990s, precision agriculture is that unpreventable thing that everyone is talking about and with good reason. Along a promise of drastically increasing productivity by integrating 21st century agriculture technology into the farm, one can’t help but to get excited surrounding all the undeveloped benefits. And since precision agriculture relies on advanced on-board computing systems you can expect tomorrow’s tractors to more closely resemble the car from Knight Rider than your dad’s John Deere.

The premise behind precision agriculture is simple; since terrains are not uniform in most of their dimensions such as soil composition, nutritional needs, crop yields, and pest/disease presence, then the traditional play from treating them uniformly is hardly ideal. Precision husbandry intends to solve this problem by splitting each block into a mesh of smaller plots of land and micromanaging them individually, instead performing “site specific management” as we recite in agriculture. Concerning course this is too big a duty for people to do plus since it requires collecting and analyzing millions of pieces of data. This is where technology comes into play accompanying a variety of advanced technologies such as GPS systems, emit monitors, diversify rate applicators, and geospatial statistical analysis software.

Soil composition and yield maps

As amidst any successful scientific endeavor, a good precision agriculture practice requires accurate data. A adequate place to establish is usually apart generating soil creation and yield maps of the blocks you wish to analyze. These maps represent the large numbers like samples that will be the basic input for geospatial statistical analysis software that will produce recommendations for different processes such as fertilization, sowing density, and pest/disease control.

The problem with these types of maps is that they can be very difficult to build correctly. A cumulative monolithic of errors coming from many different elements such as GPS system accuracy limitations, usage of multiple harvesting machines on the synonymous fields (Multiple yield monitors), and time delays on data capture due to hardware capacity, can drive the indentation of error exponentially even to the point about rendering it useless. This is why having a proper process for minimizing errors during data capture, and where the arsch filtering of suspiciously out of place data (Outliers) become crucial activities.

Variable rate applications

Currently there are two major schools of thought behind variable rate applications and potentially even precision agriculture in general; on one side we have those who wish to magnify the fields to further heights than had been heretofore possible with traditional methods. Their rationale lies behind the facticity that since we’re nought using optimal agricultural methods for each specific site, then the maximum eventual of fields has not been reached and large benefits can be achieved by trying to maximize production. On the other side of the fence we have experts who think that due to the fact that an extremely strong level of production has already been reached on most crops, possible gains in play due to site express management of fields are marginal and not worth pursuing. The focus of these specialists instead is centered in cost-cutting beside reducing waste and over application of agrarian supplies (Seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, etc.). What I’ve noticed is that fait accompli precision agriculture savvy farmers in many cases have a position that sits half-way among both camps, and thus treat each department as a inimitable case that needs to be treated individually to determine the best approach.

Once you have decided which line suits your current situation better, modern geospatial statistical analysis software tools choice offer a army of mathematical methods for determining an optimal application characteristic that takes into account the specific circumstances of each individual site. This application patterns will then be transferred to an on-board computer that can automatically control application rates of the tools attached to the tractors (Planters, sprayers, etc.) based on the GPS position of the vehicle. Here again ensuring the minimization of errors in data, such as ensuring an accurate GPS position, can have a big effect on the final results of the exercise.

Is it worth it?

I am sorry to say that the jury is still out on this question. So far you will get an even amount concerning both positive and negative stories about real-life applications of precision agriculture. This could subsist due to the fact that a clearness definition of when and where this methodology makes meaning has yet to be agreed. Expecting precision agriculture to be a magic resolution for anyone with a plot of land is not realistic, and it’s even more likely that there will be plenty of cases where precision should subsist used plus even more where it shouldn’t. Once we get to that point and past the hype we can gauge the reify brunt of precision agriculture in different situations, then we will treasure its real value. Thankfully there is an ever growing group of pioneers from all terminated the world that have taken the first step.

Comments are closed.