UF/IFAS Extension Columbia County recently hosted a Precision Agriculture Field Day at Bar D Ranch near Columbia City. The program highlighted many of the technologies used in a local research and demonstration project sponsored by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Bar D Ranch and 83 Farms, LLC have supported this work as cooperating farmers.
Precision agriculture, or site-specific agriculture, is using GPS guidance systems to micro-manage specific field areas. Technologies that will be displayed include: Veris mapping; grid soil sampling; UAV and satellite imagery; elevation mapping; landscape suitability for variable rate irrigation; and microclimate variability and plant disease. This was a great opportunity to compare the data collected (maps) with observable field conditions, and to meet with UF/IFAS scientists and the vendors participating in precision agriculture in north Florida. Mace Bauer, UF/IFAS Extension Agent said, “we saw some very interesting early results with the data collected including using UAVs to monitor plant conditions and plant health.”
This work was impactful to bring together UF/IFAS, precision agriculture service providers, and farmers to examine opportunities in precision agriculture. Farmers were most impressed with the relationships observed in crop growth and the apparent correlation to soil sensor measurements and the ability of satellite and UAV imagery to identify variability in crop growth and provide a spatial awareness of crop differences. Farmers indicated with more assistance these were all practices that could be easily integrated into their operations. However, it was suggested they need more concrete recommendations to interpret data collected. This robust dataset offers the opportunity to address many additional issues including a review of UF/IFAS recommendations for variable rate nutrient applications, and examining the potential for variable rate irrigation and the soil and crop factors which would influence the adoption of this technology.