By Gared Shaffer and Laura Edwards
When precision agriculture comes into a conversation a few questions arise. Three of those questions might be: What is precision agriculture? How does precision agriculture make our farm more profitable? What do I do with all this data?
What is precision ag?
It is a farming management concept based on observing and responding to intra-field variations, consisting of automated controls, gathering and using geospatial data. Precision agriculture includes collecting data, but also using it to inform in-season and long-term management decisions.
How can precision agriculture make our farm profitable?
The most widely adopted areas in precision ag have to do with what is automated. Bruce Erickson from Purdue University said, “The technologies that have been the most rapidly adopted are those that are automated….things like sprayer controllers, planter row shut offs and tools that guide implements through the field are helping reduce costs”. The cost though, to start precision farming can be a daunting task and make farmers nervous with the current low commodity prices and high prices of precision equipment. Precision Ag technology can provide some information on where you can balance optimum yield with costs of inputs, such as fertilizer/nutrients, hybrid choice, and other treatments.
What do I do with all this data?
This is why there has been a large increase in the use of not just the technology but also for analysis and advisory services from numerous precision ag industry providers. Over time, growers can utilize data that has been collected from yield maps, “as-applied” maps, weather/climate data, and other data, to identify areas where more intensive management may be beneficial, or where less intensive management may produce just as well. These data may also show what climate conditions are favorable across various areas, such as which locations prefer wetter, drier, cooler or warmer growing conditions.
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