What is Precision Agriculture?
Precision agriculture is a farming maintenance strategy designed to improve agricultural sustainability and production. The practice involves leveraging technology, observing, measuring, and analyzing temporal and spatial variability, and using all of this data to improve farming and agricultural practices.
Agricultural managers that practice precision agriculture typically use various tools and data collection methods to analyze different variables to find the best course of action for the land. This is designed to help transition into a more sustainable form of agriculture, while also improving production.
Why is it Important?
The main goal of precision agriculture is to help managers make more informed decisions for the benefit of the farm. Through precision agriculture, data gatherers can learn the best ways to effectively use fertilizer, pesticides, tillage, and irrigation water. Additionally, precision farming can also be used to determine which types of crops are ideal for growing in a certain area.
This allows farmers to produce higher-quality crops and a higher quantity of them. This increases yield and production, which in turn can benefit the farm financially. On top of that, precision agriculture allows farmers to accomplish all of that without having a negative impact on the environment.
Agriculture accounts for a large chunk of emissions worldwide. Through precision agriculture, farmers can improve the output and yield of their crops without increasing their negative impact on the environment. And in our current world that is plagued by climate change and environmental issues, precision agriculture could be a very important step in the right direction.
Examples of Precision Agriculture
Precision agriculture can take on many forms. There are various ways that organizations may practice and integrate precision agriculture into their operations. Some of the ways you may adopt precision agriculture can include:
Data gathering is the heart of precision agriculture. The entire purpose of precision agriculture is gathering different data sets to determine the best steps forward for the farm, including how to utilize different crop inputs, which crops to plant, and many other important decisions that farm managers must make.
There are many ways that you can gather data to perform precision agriculture. These methods include agricultural mapping and field scouting to find problem areas, track crops, and even assess yield potential. Other data-gathering methods include soil analyses, fertility tests, and even the potential yield of certain crops.
Another way that you can practice precision agriculture is by using robotics in farming operations. For example, one of the ways robotics could aid the shift to precision agriculture is by using robots to precisely apply fertilizer between rows of crops while also pulling weeds.
These tasks are usually performed manually. And while there’s nothing wrong with doing this by hand, robotics allows these tasks to be performed more efficiently, with less waste. This can result in a much more sustainable approach to farming, which is one of the main goals of precision agriculture.
Mapping out the field is one of the most important aspects of precision agriculture. However, mapping out and monitoring such a large area can prove to be a tough task. This is why many farm managers have begun utilising drones for mapping out the field as well as monitoring.
Through drone technology, it will be much easier to catch problem areas and also create a comprehensive and accurate map of the field. There are many farms that currently use drone technology for precision agriculture, as the technology has become very efficient and can even be cost-effective in certain situations.
The Four R’s of Precision Agriculture
Understanding precision agriculture can be tough for the uninitiated. However, there are simple and easy ways to wrap your head around the concept. One of these methods is understanding the four R’s of precision agriculture, which we’ll get into below.
The first “R” of precision agriculture is the “Right Place”. It’s important to be planting your crops in the right place to reduce the number of resources it takes to grow and harvest certain products. This is why mapping the field is a crucial step in precision agriculture that allows farm managers to determine the ideal crops and inputs for a particular field.
Another major consideration when practicing precision agriculture is planting crops at the right time. For some farms, this may involve rotating crops throughout the year. That way, you only grow crops that are ideal for that time of the year, making for a more sustainable practice overall.
One of the keys to precision agriculture is growing the right crops for your area. This means that if you’re planting a certain crop, your field should have the resources needed to grow these crops along with a sustainable source for these resources.
The right rate in precision agriculture refers to finding a balance between the natural nutrients of the soil along with what you need to add to enhance the growth and output of the crops. This is another area that requires a lot of data, which is why it’s important for farm managers to gather as much relevant data as possible when practicing precision agriculture.
FAQs about Precision Agriculture
The concept of precision agriculture was originally theorized by Dr. Pierre Robert, who is considered the father of modern precision farming in the 1980s.
The biggest disadvantage of precision agriculture is the high overhead costs of practicing it. However, when you consider the benefits of the practice, these initial costs and investments will be more than worth it in the long run.
The biggest impact that precision agriculture makes is reducing the environmental impact of climate change. Modern agriculture has a negative effect on our environment, and precision agriculture aims to solve these issues.
Precision agriculture is not a band-aid solution or a cure-all to problems that the agricultural industry faces. Instead, this is a method of improving crop yield while reducing the environmental impact of certain farming practices.