Globally farming for crop production will have to get smarter if it wants to boost productivity and bring more food to the rising world population. The only way of doing this is to go through the deployment of a range of technologies to make farming more precise, sustainable, and profitable whereas the negative impact on climate and environment is reduced.
What is Precision Agriculture about?
Precision agriculture is an approach that uses smart technologies to manage crop variability in the field accurately to ensure that the crops and soil receive exactly what they need for optimised health and productivity. The goal of precision agriculture is to grow more food with fewer resources at reduced production costs, hence, making crop production more efficient while farmers and the natural resources are working better, not harder. This is achieved by using the technologies to guide both immediate and future decisions on everything input in the field, such as seeds, fertilizer, and chemicals, to be applied at a certain quantity, a particular rate, and the best time to apply.
All aspects of the environment – soil, weather, vegetation, water – vary from place to place, and all these factors determine crop growth and farming success. Farmers have always been aware of this, but they lacked the tools to measure, map and manage these variations precisely. While precision agriculture principles have been around for many years since as early as the 1940s, it has only been over the past 30 years or so that they have become mainstream practice due to technological advancements in the area of information and computer technologies (ICT) and the adoption of other technologies on a broader base. Under precision agriculture, the technologies such as GPS and GIS can help farmers know what, how much and when to apply the inputs that the crops and soil accurately need. Therefore, precision farming can make a great difference to food production and can help farmers achieve enhanced sustainability and profitability.
Most recently, the adoption of mobile devices, wireless communication, access to high-speed internet, low cost and reliable satellites, unmanned vehicles and tractor-implement that is optimized for precision agriculture by the original equipment manufacturers (OEM), are some of the key technologies characterizing the trend for precision agriculture.
The Implementation of Precision Farming in crop production circle
The five key components or processes of precision farming for crop production can be summarized as following:
- Mapping, imaging and monitoring of variabilities in crop and soil
- Analysing of variabilities
- Decision-making based on analysis
- Implementing of differential actions
- Evaluation of results
Major technologies used in Precision Agriculture
There is a lot of technologies used to make modern agriculture more efficient. A key component of the precision farming management approach is the use of information technology and a wide range of other smart technologies as results of the advancement of information industrialization and digitization. For example, some farmers use global positioning systems (GPS) and GPS-computer guided tractors and harvesters. The major smart technologies used for Precision farming are listed as below.
The availability of geographical information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS) have enabled quick mapping and soil sampling for the management to locate the problem areas precisely in the fields for differential treatments. Recently the new Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) and BeiDou have been referred as well when the new series of satellite technologies including GPS guidance are launched in different regimes.
Sensors in fields measure the moisture content and temperature of the soil and surrounding air. Wireless and remote sensors have been used in precision agriculture to gather data on soil water parameters, soil compaction, soil fertility, leaf temperature, leaf area index, plant water status, local climate data, insect-disease-weed infestation, and many others.
Variable Rate Technology (VTR)
VRT refers to any technology that enables the variable application of inputs and allows farmers to control the number of inputs they apply in a specific location. The basic components of this technology include a computer, software, a controller, and a differential global positioning system (DGPS). There are three basic approaches to using VRT – map-based, sensor-based, and manual. Variable-rate applicators, machinery, and technology have been used in many crops such as rice, wheat, maize, soybean, and other crops to apply the prescribed treatments at each site.
Remote sensing technology
Remote sensing technology has been in use in agriculture since the late 1960s. It can be an invaluable tool when it comes to monitoring and managing land, water, and other resources. It can help determine everything from what factors may be stressing a crop at a specific point in time to estimating the amount of moisture in the soil. This data enriches decision-making on the farm and can come from several sources including drones and satellites.The full article is for subscribed members only. To view the full article please subscribe. It’s FREE!Log In Register
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