Precision farming is a form of agriculture in which plants and animals are given the precise treatment they need. Previously, in agriculture it was generally the case that each field was determined what had to be done. With precision agriculture this can be determined per square meter. This ensures efficiency and higher yields.
Precision agriculture, satellite farming and site-specific crop management are management concepts for farms that are based on observing, measuring and responding to variability between the crops in the fields. The aim of the research on precision agriculture is to define a decision support system for the entire business management, with the aim of extracting the greatest yield from the crops with as little waste as possible.
Precision agriculture was born with the introduction of GPS-navigation for tractors in the early nineties, and the introduction of this technology is so widespread that today it is probably the most common example of precision agriculture. A GPS connected controller in a farmer’s tractor directs the equipment to work optimally, based on the coordinates of a field. This reduces steering errors made by drivers and any possible overlap in the field. This consequently results in less wasted seed, fertilizer, fuel and time.
Precision agriculture is another important term associated with combining methodology with technology. In essence, it concerns the provision of more accurate agricultural techniques for planting and cultivating crops. Precision agronomy can include any of the following elements:
Variable speed technology - refers to any technology that allows the variable application of inputs and allows farmers to manage the amount of inputs they apply to a specific location. The basic components of this technology are a computer, software, a controller and a differential global positioning system. There are three basic approaches for using Variable Speed technology, sensor-based and manual maps.
GPS Soil Sampling - Testing the soil in a field reveals the available nutrients, PH levels and a range of other data that is important for making informed and profitable decisions. In essence, soil samples allow farmers to consider productivity differences within a field and formulate a plan that takes these differences into account. With collection and sampling services that are worthwhile, the data can be used for input for variable speed applications to optimize sowing and fertilization.
Computer-controlled applications - Computer applications can be used to create precise agricultural plans, field maps, scouting and yield maps. This, in turn, allows for a more precise application of inputs such as pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Consequently, this saves money, achieves higher yields and creates a more environmentally friendly operation. The challenge with these software systems is that they sometimes provide limited value making it difficult to use the data for making larger decisions, especially without the help of an expert. Another concern in many software applications is the poor user interfaces and the inability to integrate the information they provide with other data sources to enrich and be of great value to famers.
Remote sensing technology - Remote sensing technology has been used in agriculture since the late 1960’s. It can be invaluable when it comes to monitoring and managing land, water and other sources. It can help to determine everything – which factors are hindering a crop at any given time to estimating the amount of moisture in the soil. This data enriches the decision-making on the farm and can come from different sources, including drones and satellites.