Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Precision Farming - An Advantage Agriculture

Agriculture embarks in to a era where hitherto obscure skill sets of humankind are setting pace and becoming obvious realities with newfangled areas in space and information technology. In modern days, the information – among others - conjoins as a most valuable resource. This information involves of data on crop characteristics, hybrid responses, soil properties, fertility requirements, weather Predictions, weed and pest populations, plant growth responses, harvest yield, post harvest processing, and marketing projections. Precision agriculture integrates a suite of technologies that retain the benefits of large-scale mechanisation, which is essential to large fields, but recognizes local variation. By using satellite data to determine soil conditions and plant development, these technologies can lower the production cost by fine-tuning seeding, fertilizer, chemical and water use, and potentially increasing production and lowering costs — all benefiting the farmer.

Precision farming is sometimes called prescription farming, site specific farming or variable rate technology. It focuses on the use of three technologies – remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS). Remote sensing has had agricultural applications from the earliest days. The feedback has helped drive the design of major remote-sensing instruments. For example, the spectral bands, spatial resolution and orbital elements of the original Multi-Spectral Scanner on the Earth Resources Technology Satellite, launched in 1972, by USA were influenced by field size, field spectrometer data on crop leaf and soil reflectance, and crop life cycles. The technology has now been developed so that the field information (such as yield and application rates) can be controlled and monitored at smaller intervals in the field at a reasonable cost to the farmer. Pesticides can be applied in areas of pest infestation, at ETL (Economic Threshold Level) reducing the amount of pesticide which may potentially impact the environment. Fertilizers and soil amendments can be applied only where needed. Crop yield can also be monitored to create maps that show the high and low production areas of a field for improved management decisions. As the cost of this technology comes down, the cost effectiveness of production will improve.

This scene depicts a personal computer with a GIS application software program can effectively organize, analyze, and manage data. Record keeping is easy on a computer and information from past years can be easily accessed. The computer software including spreadsheets, databases, Geographic information system and other types of application software are readily available and most are easy to use. The software provides data storage, retrieval, and transformation of spatial (field) data. GIS software for precision farming management will store data, such as soil type, nutrient levels, etc, in layers and assign that information to the particular field location. A fully functional GIS can be used to analyze characteristics between layers to develop application maps or other management options. The field location is usually stored by the latitude and longitude of that position, which is typically found using a Global Positioning System (GPS). Several maps can be created showing the variability of nutrient levels, soil type, topography, pest incidence and yield. A global positioning system receiver requires at least four satellites to determine its position on earth.The primary need for a system like global positioning system is the ability to return to a particular location, on a regular basis. As a result, numerous observations and measurements can be taken at a specific position. Global information systems (GIS) can be used to create field maps based on Global Positioning System data to record and assess the impact of farm management decisions.

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