Adopting Precision Farming Practices Can Help Make Agriculture More Resilient

One of the most important and least appreciated concepts in agriculture is “resilience.” Resilience is the antidote to risk. Of the many definitions, the European Commission (EC) has probably the broadest one that has application to agriculture.

According to the EC, resilience is defined as the “ability of an individual, a household, a community, or a region to withstand, to adapt, and to quickly recover from stresses and shocks.” This definition explicitly emphasizes the importance of spatial scale when discussing resilience and implicitly acknowledges the temporal aspect when referring to adaptation and recovery. The definition introduces the important concepts of “stress” and “shock.” Stress, in the present discussion, refers to any phenomena that slows or suspends a particular agricultural practice, while shock stops the same practice. In other words, stress makes a certain endeavor more difficult, while shock makes the same endeavor impossible.

A couple of examples may help to understand the difference between stress and shock and why they are the basis for discussing resilience. A heavy rain may suspend (stress) a particular operation in a field during a growing season, while a flood (shock) would likely destroy a crop. The selected removal (stress) of a few trees in a landscape may slightly impact an ecosystem, while deforestation (shock) would destroy the same ecosystem.

Before tackling how a grower can respond to stress or a shock, it may be instructive to discuss the spatial and temporal aspects of these concepts. The scale of one phenomenon may disrupt the ability of an individual to perform an operation, but have little or no impact on the larger, surrounding community. The scale of another phenomenon may reach far beyond an individual. For example, if the vehicle of an individual breaks down, the surrounding community is still able to drive on the roads. If a bridge fails, the driving ability of a greater number of individuals would be affected in the same community. If there was a severe earthquake, transportation with a vehicle would be impacted across many communities in a state.

Long- Vs. Short-Term

The temporal scale is just as important as the spatial scale. A short-lived, isolated phenomenon that disrupts some practice is very different then a phenomenon that persists over a long time. For example, growers can deal with a dry spell over a matter of days but a prolonged drought can not only destroy a crop in a given season but also jeopardize farming in the upcoming years. This is exactly the situation in California where the agricultural industry is changing due to dwindling water supplies from an ongoing regional drought.

As defined, resilience is the ability to withstand, adapt, and to quickly recover from stresses and shocks. Withstanding stresses and shocks is a function of vulnerability. Everyone in agriculture is aware that a fallow field exposed to a heavy rain is more vulnerable to water erosion than a field covered with a crop. Similarly, everyone knows that rotating crops can make a field less vulnerable to the buildup of pests, provide better soil structure, and improve nutrient cycling in soils. By choosing practices wisely, a farming operation can withstand a number of biotic and abiotic stresses. However, if a shock is severe enough, then a grower must look to adaptation and recovery as a strategy.

The ability to adapt and recover from stresses and shocks is routed in an understanding of one’s vulnerability to some phenomenon and the odds of it occurring in a given future period. Some examples may illustrate the interplay of adaptation and recovery to some disruptive phenomena. If high winds are a recurring problem every year for a field, then the building of a wind barrier may be justified because of production losses. The protection of a field from high winds is an adaptation to a known vulnerability. If a crop is vulnerable to early spring freezes in one out of every two years, than a later planting with a shorter-season variety may make for a more resilient production practice. If hail is a frequent risk with catastrophic yield loss, then purchasing hail insurance is a form of monetary recovery to the shock. Replanting could be considered a recovery mechanism when a first planting is washed out by heavy rains.

Recognizing Diminishing Returns

Growers intuitively know that when implementing a resilient practice there is a point of diminishing return between the cost of the practice and the anticipated loss in production. That is, the implementation of proactive solutions to reduce the risk of stress or shock comes with a cost that may be greater than doing nothing. Again, the choice for implementing a new practice for a more resilient operation has to do with the frequency of the threatening phenomenon over a future period. If a catastrophic loss or shock occurs once in every 20 years, than the best recovery strategy may be simply to put money aside or buy an insurance policy for that future occurrence.

In some rare cases, a location may be vulnerable to a future shock that is so infrequent that many generations could pass before its occurrence. In fact, the shock is so infrequent there is no practical recovery plan for a social infrastructure that was put in place before the awareness of the risk. A classic case of such a future shock is the Cascadia earthquake risk due to a subduction zone in the Northwestern U.S. The Cascadia earthquake returns on average every 243 years with the last major event occurring on 1,700 A.D. based on proxy data. Seismologists estimate that there is between a one-in-three and one-in-10 chance for a mega earthquake (greater than 7.0 on the Richter scale) in the next 50 years. Because of the vulnerability of the existing infrastructure, recovery planning is focused on saving lives rather than property. While unanticipated future shocks are rare in agriculture, they still warrant a secondary consideration in a recovery plan if only for the safety of individuals.

Planning for the upcoming season should include a review of farm-level vulnerabilities to stresses and shocks and the adoption of possible practices to minimize their impact on production. A number of these practices could be drawn from technologies offered in precision agriculture. The inclusion of precision agricultural practices would contribute to making agriculture more resilient.

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Adopting Precision Farming Practices Can Help Make Agriculture More Resilient

Hort Tech Stories
Sentera
DronesSentera Announces May Release of Multispectral Double 4K Sensor for DJI Drones
April 27, 2017
Sentera announced the release of its Multispectral Double 4K Sensor, offering five precise spectral bands: blue, green, red, red edge, Read More
Business ManagementBionic Leaves: Future Source of Endless Fertilizer?
April 21, 2017
*Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Hort TechAGCO, Fendt’s Project MARS Pursues the Future of Farm Robots
April 13, 2017
(SOURCE: Fendt.com) MARS stands for Mobile Agricultural Robot Swarms. Or in other words, it stands for agriculture of the future, Read More
Sentera drone
DronesSentera Debuts Enhanced North America Dealer Network
April 11, 2017
Sentera today announced the availability of its precision agriculture solutions at over 350 retail locations across North America. By broadening Read More
Trending Articles
GPS, Guidance
Business ManagementPromoting Precision Agricultural Innovation in a Risk Averse Marketplace
April 24, 2017
As precision agriculture consultants we constantly are being asked our opinions on where to invest, and how to strategically invest Read More
Data ManagementInnovation Series Highlights: The Weather Company’s Rob Berglund on Cognitive Computing
April 19, 2017
Rob Berglund, global director of sales, energy and agriculture at The Weather Company, discusses IBM’s Watson and applications for advanced analytics that will fundamentally change Read More
Corn close up
Data ManagementFarmers Business Network Releases State of the Industry Style Report
April 17, 2017
Farmer’s Business Network (FBN) released today its “The Voice of the Farmer”, a special research report on the state of Read More
Soybean Closeup
Ag Tech GlobalPrecision Agriculture Helps Brazilian Farmers Top 90-Bushel Soybean Yield
April 5, 2017
In the 2016/2017 harvest, the Mato Grossense Institute of Economics (IMEA) estimated that the largest soybean state in Brazil will Read More
Grower Retaile iPad
ProfessionalsField Scouting Apps Boost Efficiency, Speed
March 31, 2017
Scouting is one of the most critical services that ag retailers and consultants can offer their grower-customers. The need for Read More
Bruce Rasa corn AgVoice app
Data ManagementVoice-To-Data Tool Shows Promise For Scouting
March 24, 2017
See it, speak it, record it. No pens, no paper, no lost information. In a nutshell that’s what Bruce Rasa Read More
Latest News
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
Ag Tech GlobalBASF Fortifies Digital Farming Offer with ZedX Acquisit…
April 27, 2017
BASF has signed an agreement to acquire US-based company ZedX, a leader in the development of digital agricultural intelligence. The Read More
Sentera
DronesSentera Announces May Release of Multispectral Double 4…
April 27, 2017
Sentera announced the release of its Multispectral Double 4K Sensor, offering five precise spectral bands: blue, green, red, red edge, Read More
Data Science tablet
Data ManagementHow to Address the Challenges of Data Science in Agricu…
April 26, 2017
Recently, Joe Byrum wrote an excellent article on the state of machine learning in agriculture. In it, Joe highlighted one Read More
Industry NewsFrom PrecisionAg with Love: Thanks, President Trump! (O…
April 26, 2017
Without getting too far into the weeds, I think it’s safe to say that today America feels more divided than Read More
Purdue Online Course
ProfessionalsPurdue University’s Online Precision Ag Course Re…
April 25, 2017
An online course offered by Purdue University’s Agronomy e-Learning Academy, Precision Agriculture, has received the 2017 Digital Education Excellence in Read More
Nuffield Scholarship
Ag Tech GlobalNuffield: Promoting the Diffusion of Knowledge of Preci…
April 24, 2017
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet John Stevenson, a 2016 Nuffield Australia Scholarship winner.  As part of the scholarship, John Read More
GPS, Guidance
Business ManagementPromoting Precision Agricultural Innovation in a Risk A…
April 24, 2017
As precision agriculture consultants we constantly are being asked our opinions on where to invest, and how to strategically invest Read More
Case IH Autonomous concept vehicle
ProfessionalsOpinion: What the Heck is A.I. Going to do for Agricult…
April 24, 2017
Let’s pause from the daily toils of ag for a minute and start thinking about the future. In a very Read More
Imagery ipad
Imagery/SensingNew Opportunities with In-season Imagery?
April 24, 2017
When I think about precision agriculture my usual thoughts are around the continuous learning about the variability in a field. Read More
Data ManagementNew Partnership: Farmers Edge, Allied Cooperative Link …
April 24, 2017
Farmers Edge announced it has partnered with Allied Cooperative, a provider of agronomy, feed, grain, and equipment services to growers Read More
Retailer Grower Tractor
ProfessionalsAg Attorney: Sorry Right to Repair Advocates, But You&#…
April 21, 2017
(via AgLaw.us) This recent article on Motherboard is getting a lot of press: “Why American Farmers are Hacking Their Tractors Read More
ProfessionalsAgFunder: Clean Seed’s Wireless Smart Seeder is Set to …
April 21, 2017
(Via AgFunderNews.com) Heard of Clean Seed Capital Group? No? You will very soon because this Canadian company has been quietly Read More
Business ManagementBionic Leaves: Future Source of Endless Fertilizer?
April 21, 2017
*Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Sentera software
Decision Support SoftwareSentera Launching Field-Edge Plant Population Analysis …
April 20, 2017
Sentera is excited to announce the launch of its closed beta for field-edge Plant Population Analysis, available through its AgVault Read More
Data ManagementFarm Market iD Launches Sales & Marketing Platform
April 20, 2017
Following Farm Market iD’s February 2017 introduction of FieldVision, its mobile data-delivery platform, the company announced today its newest online Read More
Data ManagementInnovation Series Highlights: The Weather Company’…
April 19, 2017
Rob Berglund, global director of sales, energy and agriculture at The Weather Company, discusses IBM’s Watson and applications for advanced analytics that will fundamentally change Read More
Data ManagementInnovation Series Highlights: EFC Systems & 5 Facto…
April 19, 2017
Ernie Chappell of EFC Systems discusses five factors impacting the ag retail industry, the competitive advantages of enhanced customer engagement Read More
Moo monitor
Sensors/IoTUsing IoT to Increase Efficiency, Productivity for Live…
April 19, 2017
When it comes to managing livestock and feed, the goal for every farmer is to be as efficient and productive Read More