The definition of Precision Agriculture has evolved over 22 years and has more than a few associated acronyms (PA; SSCM=site-specific crop management; VRT=variable rate technology).

If one were to attempt to summarize the definition of PA: it involves awareness of growing conditions within a field and the use of technology as a decision support tool to maximize production efficiency while minimizing environmental impact of agricultural inputs.

We may be most familiar with PATs (Precision Agriculture Technologies) such as GPS-guided tractors or the use of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles AKA “drones”) as imagery sensors or product applicators. So many acronyms! Other PATs include robot weeders and mechanized transplanters.

Check out The University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics promo video:

Resources closer to home include the UAS at OSU program, and a fellow Beaver blogger who has a great annotated resource list about Drones in Agriculture here.

Perhaps you’re not quite ready for autonomous tech. One simple and easy way to jump on the PA bandwagon is to use calibration tools. These are based on mathematical models of soil and crop parameters for a specific latitude, soil type, etc.. At the click of a button, they provide output estimates to help schedule irrigation, determine fertilizer needs, or predict harvest dates. These are in addition to the MANY mobile apps now available.

Univ. of Florida Irrigation scheduler (.xls)

Louisiana State Univ. Spreader calibration (.xls)

Oregon State University Croptime (web app)

Another new trend (and a way to sneak in one last acronym) is for companies to offer SaaS: Software as Service, like our friends at Valley Agronomics.

As you go about planning and planting this year, why not give these PA tools a try. The program developers are usually very receptive to comments, as it helps them improve the models, or know that they are working adequately.

DISCLAIMER: Mention or links to any of the products or services above do not imply endorsement.


wordcloud of IPM terms
Aspects of Integrated Pest Management

Insecticides should not be the only plan of action when trying to control insect pests. But they are also an important and valuable tool. The National Roadmap for IPM supports chemical management as an option, but a main focus is to reduce the risk of resistance that may develop when a system relies too heavily on chemical management strategies.

Active ingredients in pesticides target different aspects of an organism’s growth. So, when implementing an insecticide use plan, it is very important to try to rotate chemistries, also known as modes of action (MoA).

Familiarize yourself with pesticide ‘group numbers’, and try to make choices that AVOID repeated use of the same product or MoA group. Otherwise, you may inadvertently be contributing to insecticide resistance, which means that sprays will be less effective, wasting your time and money. Group numbers are usually shown on a product’s label.

If you want to know more about this concept, may I suggest this video and other material available from the Int’l Resistance Action Committee (IRAC-online(dot)org). Other great resources include OSU’s Integrated Plant Protection Center (IPPC) and the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC).