February 22, 2019

Precision agriculture: from concept to practice

Precision agriculture is the main element in today’s stage of agricultural revolution, which started in early 1900 with increasing of mechanization and proceeded in 1990 with new methods of genetic modification. Let’s first define what precision agriculture is. Precision agriculture (PA), also known as satellite farming, site specific crop management (SSCM) or precision farming is a concept, which implies observation, measurement and respond to inter and intra-field variability in crops with help of information technology (IT).

The main goal of PA is to define the crops and soil requirements for optimum productivity on one hand and to preserve resources, ensure environmental sustainability and protection on the other.

So, how does it work? Sensors located in fields measure the moisture content in soil and surrounding air temperature. Satellites and robotic drones take real-time pictures of individual plants, which can be processed using the special software and integrated with sensor and other data to yield guidance for development of crop farming plans: to estimate the irrigation areas, amount of applicable pesticides or fertilizers. Integration of this process into regular farming helps to solve the most vital problems in agriculture: resources wasting, high cost and destructive environmental impact.

And accessibility of cloud solutions, such as LandViewer, which crunch that diverse data to provide results in form of maps, graphs, and alerts, simplify the adoption of precision agriculture greatly.

Basic technologies used in precision farming:

  • Variable rate technology (VRT) – any technology or method allowing farmers to control amount of inputs applicable within defined farming areas. This technology uses specialized software, controllers and differential global positioning system (DGPS). Basically there are three approaches to VRT – manual, based on maps or data from sensors.
  • GPS soil sampling – this method is based on taking samples of soil to check nutrients, pH level, and other data to make profitable decisions in agriculture. Big data collected by sampling, is applied to calculate variable rate for optimized seeding and fertilizing.
  • Computer-based applications – this refers to applications used to create precise farm plans, field maps, crop scouting, yield maps and to define exact amount of inputs to be applied on fields. Among the advantages of this method is the possibility to create the environmentally-friendly farming plan, which in its turn helps to reduce the cost and increase yields. On the other side these applications provide narrow value data which cannot be applied for big precision agriculture solutions due to inability to integrate the obtained data into other supporting systems.
  • Remote sensing technology – the method determines factors which can stress a crop at a specific time to estimate the amount of moisture in the soil. The data is obtained from drones and satellites. Compared to drone data, satellite imagery is more accessible and multi-purpose. Access to 10 free satellite datasets and remote sensing toolset in LandViewer provides numerous possibilities: monitoring crop health, detecting dried or waterlogging areas, collecting crop productivity data for the past seasons, etc.
sensing applications in precision farming
(с) Wikipedia. False-color images demonstrate remote sensing applications in precision farming. Courtesy NASA Earth Observatory

 

Automated steering systems. This technology can be divided in three subcategories: assisted, which just shows driver the pass on the field; automated, which takes a full control over the steering wheel; intelligent guidance system, which provides the steering patterns according to the field shape. Among benefits of this technology should be mentioned reducing of human errors and achieving the most effective site management. False-color images demonstrate remote sensing applications in precision farming.

Possible implementation of precise agriculture suggests the usage of technologies on agriculture equipment like tractors, sprayers or harvesters:

 

  1. positioning system to determine a precise location
  2. geographic information systems (GIS) for macro and micro level mapping
  3. variable-rate farming equipment like seeders and spreaders

Contact our support team to learn more on how to get the best from your crop farming while investing less.

 

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