Precision agriculture refers to a farm management concept that’s centered on observing crops and measuring and responding to variables that affect their growth. The practice is enabled by the advent of GPS and GNSS, as these technologies have allowed farmers to precisely locate fields and create a map of the elements that affect crop health in different locations. It’s known by different names — precision agriculture, site-specific crop management, and satellite farming — but all of these have the same goals: help increase productivity, reduce required labor, and minimize environmental stress.
Precision farming works to the benefit of farmers and crop growers by:
Collecting Real-time Data
Keeping a farm means constantly fighting against the forces of nature. Every day, farmers have to watch out for unwanted plants, keep pests out of the field, and guard against diseases. And because plant growth can be affected by internal elements such as land composition and soil nutrient distribution, farmers also have to monitor every aspect of their field. These problems need to be detected, contained, and resolved quickly to reduce the damage they cause.
By using ground sensors and software programs, farmers can inspect the condition of the different sectors of their farm exactly when they need to. Aerial spectral imaging can also provide farmers with a visual survey of their farm and help them identify areas that need their attention the most. Access to data can help farmers make informed decisions when it comes to managing their priorities, tasks, and resources for a particular period of time.
Reducing Water and Chemical Use
If farmers have access to real-time data, they won’t only be able to prevent damage in the field, they can also reduce the creation of waste. Traditionally, farmers apply a uniform amount of fertilizer across their field despite the actual need of the plants in the different sectors of the land. If a section of the field has enough nutrients, then applying fertilizer will only produce runoff and create unnecessary costs. But if farmers are aware of the condition of the land and crop, they can delay applying fertilizer or water until these supplies are needed. This knowledge puts growers at an advantage when resources are scarce — during a drought, for example — as it allows them to direct their limited resources to the parts of the field that actually need it.
Automating Field Management
The sheer amount of data collected by the sensors expands the history of the field and permits the use of automated decision making programs, particularly in farms that employ what is called decision support system (DDS). The system assists in data analysis and problem-solving by debunking myths and breaking down complex conundrums. It empowers farmers by letting them make informed decisions when it comes to when, where, how, and what crops should be planted and how they should be taken care of. The system responds to the needs of the plants by automating water sprinklers and other mechanisms that deliver supplies, thereby reducing the need for manual labor. The system can also track the changes in the crops and see if the solutions used on the fields are working or not.
Aiding in Improving Crop Health and Yield
Farms that use precision agriculture are more efficient in terms of using supplies and utilizing manual labor. The relevant data and actionable options presented by precision agriculture programs ensure that all efforts put into the farm will translate to better, healthier, and more bountiful harvests without requiring additional labor or resources. This, then, allows the system to pay for itself overtime.
The growing worldwide population and demand for food resources put a lot of pressure on farmers, but the benefits afforded by precision agriculture can help them meet these issues. By adopting this technology, farmers are one sure step towards growing their farm and improving food security within and outside their communities.