For more than 10,000 years people have cultivated crops using trial and error, received wisdom and how the soil feels when they rub it between their fingers. Only recently in history, mechanization revolutionized the countryside with machinery and replaced horses with tractors.
Nowadays, we’re witnessing a new farming revolution triggered by the adoption of staggering new technologies: satellites, high precision positioning systems, smart sensors and a range of IT applications combined with high-tech engineering.
All aspects of the environment – soil, weather, vegetation, water – vary from place to place. And all these factors determine crop growth and farming success. Farmers have always been aware of this, but they lacked the tools to measure, map and manage these variations precisely. Thus, Precision Farming can make a difference to food production facing the challenge of a rising world population and can help farmers to achieve:
Greater sustainability Higher productivity Economic benefits
and environmental protection
Precision Farming techniques in the crop growth cycle
In the past 10 years, Precision Farming has moved from good science to good practice – and has witnessed unprecedented growth around the globe: 70 to 80% of new farm equipment sold today has some form of Precision Farming component inside.
Thanks to cost-effective monitors and controllers and the integration into single data management systems,
Precision Farming is becoming more seamless, cost-effective and easier for farmers to install and use.
Precision Farming innovations are present in the 4 steps of the crop growth cycle:
If you want a detailed list of the most common technologies applied to Precision Farming practices, take a look at the following explanatory items:
• High precision positioning systems (like GPS) are the key technology to achieve accuracy when driving in the field, providing navigation and positioning capability anywhere on earth, anytime under any all conditions. The systems record the position of the field using geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude) and locate and navigate agricultural vehicles within a field with 2cm accuracy.
• Automated steering systems: enable to take over specific driving tasks like auto-steering, overhead turning, following field edges and overlapping of rows. These technologies reduce human error and are the key to effective site management:
- Assisted steering systems show drivers the way to follow in the field with the help of satellite navigation systems such as GPS. This allows more accurate driving but the farmer still needs to steer the wheel.
- Automated steering systems, take full control of the steering wheel allowing the driver to take the hands off the wheel during trips down the row and the ability to keep an eye on the planter, sprayer or other equipment.
- Intelligent guidance systems provide different steering patterns (guidance patterns) depending on the shape of the field and can be used in combination with above systems.
• Geomapping: used to produce maps including soil type, nutrients levels etc in layers and assign that information to the particular field location. (see picture on the left)
• Sensors and remote sensing: collect data from a distance to evaluating soil and crop health (moisture, nutrients, compaction, crop diseases). Data sensors can be mounted on moving machines.
• Integrated electronic communications between components in a system for example, between tractor and farm office, tractor and dealer or spray can and sprayer.
• Variable rate technology (VRT): ability to adapt parameters on a machine to apply, for instance, seed or fertiliser according to the exact variations in plant growth, or soil nutrients and type.
(Source – http://cema-agri.org/page/precision-farming-key-technologies-concepts)