The definition of precision agriculture is fairly simple: using precision data about your farm to make changes that will optimise yield improvement while reducing waste and preserving resources. So why is it so difficult to get started in?
There are 2 vital things you need to get started in precision agriculture: the first is knowledge and the second, unfortunately, is money. Consider precision agriculture to be an investment for your farm. Precision agriculture often calls for new technology, whether that’s farming equipment, computer software or sample taking devices to measure progress. And it will also take up time: time which you could be using to do something else that turns a profit for your farm. To make this investment really return well for you, you’ll need to have the know-how when it comes to implementing precision agriculture techniques efficiently.
Don’t waste your time and money meddling around with the latest precision technology if you’re unsure how to use it and don’t have the knowledge to back you up.
Here’s the knowledge you need and where to find it:
Being a farmer, you’ll already have a fair amount of agronomy knowledge, but precision farming calls for much more in depth data than you might be accustomed to. Before you delve into precision agriculture, take some time to learn a bit more about the science and agronomy of your land. This includes:
Nutrient and moisture management. Knowing the usual moisture and nutrient content of your soil over the seasons is important to know. Check each field individually as they may differ. Learning about what nutrients your fields are lacking and what consequences that can have is important to precision agriculture.
Soil management. Understanding the techniques for soil management and how you tailor these to your soil nutrient and moisture data will help you to really manage your soil to the optimum for your farm. Learn about the science behind how managing soil benefits your plants, the problems it solves and the problems created if there’s no soil management at all.
Crop diagnostics. Precision agriculture is a never-ending job, you’ll need to learn how to continuously monitor your crops, checking for stress levels, pests and other ailments you should aim to fix. Learn how to spot these either by yourself or with the help of drones and tech so you’ll know what you’re doing.
Pest and weed control. This needs careful consideration and research before you begin. For example, you’ve carefully monitored and controlled your soil nutrients level, but then you’re faced with difficult weeds that require herbicide spraying – this could create an unbalanced soil moisture and nutrition level, not to mention potentially make your soil unsuitable for future crops. Learn how to manage and plan for weeds and pests without interfering with your precision farming.
Learning about all of this is free with the internet at your fingertips, but to put the data to use is another matter, and that’s where precision agriculture kicks in. You need to apply what you find out to your own farm, and often that requires some tricky technological equipment…
Drones. No longer are drones a far off future technology, they are here now and ready to get to work on your farm. Always research before you buy a drone; take a look at the technical side and what the drone is capable of doing for your farm, while also considering how sturdy and reliable the drone is – will it represent good value for money? Learning how to operate one is a must, unless you want to hire a drone company to do this part for you and teach you how to operate one.
Sensors. A good drone will have sensors attached, but they’re not just limited to the sky. Using sensors to detect temperature, climate, air and soil moisture and more will provide you with the useful data you need – it’s a good idea to learn how they work and what the data truly means before you invest. Don’t invest in sensors and equipment that measures data you won’t find useful.
Software. Collating all of this valuable data together is going to require software. There are some in depth computer software packages out there for precision farming, but maybe a smartphone app that pulls it all together is more suited to you. For example, such farm management system as Cropio integrates so useful features as weather forecast, NDVI, relief, soil moisture maps, and increases the number of function offered to its customers regularly.
Research this before you begin and factor in any costs.
Other things you might want to look into before jumping into precision agriculture include: communication skills, farm economics and ethics regarding certain farming methods. There are plenty of online precision agriculture courses if you can’t find one at your local college or agriculture community to help cover these. We certainly advise checking these courses out as they’ll go into plenty of depth on all the subjects you need to know about and give you the chance to ask questions. The key to mastering precision agriculture is good, sound scientific knowledge and data which you can implement correctly.