Precision Agriculture: A New Age of Farming
Precision agriculture technology has become one of the most popular fields of research worldwide. Science is continuously looking for more efficient ways to improve how we feed the world. Various technological aspects of precision farming utilize real time data and software analytics, (using GIS and GPS satellite information) to increase the overall efficiency of production agriculture, enhance profit margins, and reduce environmental impact.
Examples of emerging precision agriculture technologies:
- Variable Rate Technology – This technology allows farmers to vary the rate of fertilizers and other inputs used on cropland.
- Digital Mapping Technology – These maps are used to capture the geographical and topographical features of a field in the form of virtual images.
- Weather Modeling – Weather sensors are used to gather detailed information on local climate factors, which in turn, model the probability of future disease and pest development.
- Guidance Technology – Also known as auto-steer technology, utilizes a satellite-based positioning system to help automatically guide agricultural machines and equipment.
- Drone Technology/Aerial Imagery – Drone technology is used to take aerial images and videography of cropland.
Not long ago, farming practices were fairly uniform. It was difficult for farmers to treat site-specifically based on land variability and soil characteristics. Without technology and information, farmers couldn’t easily implement strategies to enhance their production without putting pressure on the environment. The application of fertilizers, pesticides, and even irrigation was done as a whole, on a field-to-field basis. However, through technology, farmers can make strategic decisions based on the information generated and delivered to them. Furthermore, they are able to make wise decisions to maximize crop yield, reduce production related costs long term, and continue being good stewards of environmental resources.
In addition, global population growth is continuing to increase exponentially, with a predicted population of 9.2 billion by 2050 (NASA). That is about 34 percent greater than our current population, and food production will need to increase globally by 70 percent to feed the world (NASA). Ongoing research and emerging innovations in precision technology will ensure that we will be able to maximize food production for the world’s growing population.
In closing, precision farming technology is showing more promise for growers as it helps mitigate environmental damage, it increases crop yield and profitability for the farmer, and has the potential to help feed the growing population by using efficient farming practices. Scientists say that precision crop management is still in the experimental phase of research and implementation. Another challenge is helping farmers identify and adopt the best tools for their operation over time, as well as affordability for their farm. The costs cannot outweigh the benefits for the farming business to thrive. As new technologies emerge, the way farmers view and manage their land will also continue to change, as it has in past years. What do you think farming will look like in 10, 20 or 30 years?
UF/IFAS Extension in Suwannee County is an Equal Opportunity Institution.