Precision farming or precision agriculture offers a new solution to current agricultural concerns and utilises advanced information technologies to balance environmental issues and productivity. This is achieved by reducing energy input, increasing economic returns and reducing the environmental impact of agriculture. The process of precision farming may include identifying and fashioning variations in plant species and soil and the integration of agricultural practices to suit the environmental requirements.
For small-scale farmers, management of their farms may be possible without too much difficulty as they can make personal observations. Precision farming would just make things easier for them. Large-scale farmers, on the other hand, should employ precision agriculture to make better management decisions, which can be difficult without computerisation. Note the steps involved in precision agriculture.
Identification and Assessment of Variability
This is achieved through four key practices: grid soil sampling, yield mapping, crop scouting and quick assessment.
Grid soil sampling utilises the same principles as traditional soil sampling but adds a unique aspect. Soil samples are picked from a systematic grid and data indicates the exact location or point the soil was picked. This helps in mapping data, and a nutrient and water requirement map can be generated. The map is referred to as an application map.
Yield mapping identifies the exact locations or points that have low or high yield and what factors lead to this outcome. This helps to note what is working for the high-yield areas and replicating the same for the low-yield areas or identifying other suitable remedies.
Crop scouting is the observation of crop conditions. For example, are there any weed patches? What are the types of weed and their intensity? Is there any fungal or insect infestation? What are the species and intensity? Answers to these questions can help determine why yield is low.
Advanced equipment utilised in precision agriculture give a fast and real-time assessment that provides variability results without delay. Time saved results in quick problem solving, minimal losses and higher yield and profit.
Once the grid soil samples mentioned above are taken, they are analysed in the lab to give an interpretation of nutrient/ water requirements. The application map mentioned above is fed to a computer that has a GPS receiver, which directs a product delivery controller that applies the needed fertilisers based on the map.
Yield monitoring and mapping should be carried out over a number of years due to changes in weather conditions. Yield information obtained provides essential feedback on whether various measures were successful such as fertiliser amendments, pesticides application, tillage and irrigation. It is necessary to identify whether changes noted are as a result of management or climate.Share