A Precision Agriculture Project Starts With A Solid Foundation

I am a big fan of technologies in agriculture. I have become so impressed with the evolution of products and services that we have available in the market today. Every week, applications, work platforms and new products are launched worldwide. But before we start a precision agriculture project using innovative products, it’s worth checking some operational pillars, and today we have many tools and ways to do that.

The first operational pillar is planting. I visualize situations in Brazil and the U.S., where I could find fields with a great number of faults and/or doubles in corn planting (Figure 1). Checking the meters prior to seeding will result in a good planting. Another factor would be the adequate planting speed for installing a good crop in the field.

Brazil soil corn crop
Figure 1. Successful planting requires proper seed spacing at adequate planting speed.

High planting speeds without the correct regulation of the meter can negatively affect the longitudinal distribution of the seeds, reducing the crop singulation. In Figure 2 we have the following situation: corn planting between 8.8 Km / h and 9.7 Km / h with 96% singulation, and corn planting at more than 10.5 Km / h with 91% singulation. In this situation we will have a better quality planting if we decrease the speed.

Figure 2 Corn Planting Singulation Speed
Figure 2. Corn planting between 8.8 Km / h and 9.7 Km / h with 96% singulation, and corn planting at more than 10.5 Km / h with 91% singulation.

In many regions of Brazil, granulated fertilizers (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) are used to cover crops. If the spreader is not well calibrated in its pass range, we can have an overlap of the product, thus “staining’’ the soil. In Figure 3, we see a situation in the corn crop where urea was used and the equipment was not adjusted correctly.

Figure 3 Brazil crop aerial view
Figure 3. This aerial view of a corn crop in Brazil shows how urea was applied using spreader equipment that wasn’t calibrated correctly.

Spraying control is another important factor in the production system. Brazil is tropical country. The evolution of pests and diseases is much higher than in temperate regions, and the phytosanitary control is of paramount importance for the success of our fields.

Figures 4 and 5. Click to enlarge.

In Figure 4, we have two sprayers applying in the same fields of cotton, where we find a strip without applying and an area where we had a sub-dose application of the insecticide. In Figure 5, we have three sprayers applying together in a soybean field where we find several passes with sub-doses or overdoses of insecticides. We can conclude that we have to control this operation.

And finally, I would like to raise a few points about harvest. In Brazil, many combines have been sold in recent years, but in some cases the technical delivery has not performed correctly, and thus the best of that equipment can not be obtained. Sometimes, combines are not calibrated properly, and so reliable data can not be obtained to start a good precision agriculture project.

Figure 6
Figure 6. Click to enlarge.

In Figure 6, we have an example of combines that were not calibrated properly, thus generating an unreliable productivity map.

The content and images in this article are based on real situations that I have come across in the last few years as a precision ag consultant in Brazil, and I was happy to help in their operational correction. I know that many other points can be raised in the above examples, but I wanted to demonstrate that sometimes we have to start with the basics in order to be successful in our project.

For more information, feel free to contact me [email protected] or visit www.monagriap.com.

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