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. UAVs are even being used for restoration seeding efforts in Oregon rangelands.
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.
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.
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Resources / More Info
- Oregon State University Croptime (web app)
- Louisiana State Univ. Spreader calibration (.xls)
- Univ. of Florida Irrigation scheduler (.xls)
- WSU’s project on robotic arm harvesters for apple orchards. PI: Dr. Manoj Karkee (online news)
- NEW : “Driverless Farm Machinery May Lead to New Business Model” – Capital Press article, Jan 22 2020 (online news)