The Precision Decision

As inputs become more costly, site-specific crop management (precision agriculture) is slowly becoming more widely adopted in Florida citrus production. Used properly, precision agriculture can contribute to reduced waste, increased profits, and protection of the environment.

“Precision agriculture is not a single technology, but rather a set of many components from which growers can select to form a system that meets their unique needs and operation size,” says Reza Ehsani, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC). “In citrus production, a small change in increasing the efficiency of the input materials or yield could significantly affect the bottom line.”

Esa Ontermaa, precision agriculture coordinator at Lykes Citrus Management Division, says that precision agriculture includes many technologies, but that they don’t always fit every operation. He cautions growers to have a well-defined purpose and to thoroughly investigate and evaluate the options prior to implementation.

Yield Monitoring

According to Ehsani, collecting yield data is the first step in precision agriculture. Yield monitoring is the process of measuring fruit yield for a given location and integrating it with GPS-obtained information.

“Yield monitors can provide and document the amount of yield variability at a smaller scale and can lead the way to manage the needs of each individual tree rather than treating the entire block of trees uniformly,” Ehsani says.

Several commercially available software packages can read yield data and create a yield map. Most can:

• Provide detailed statistical information regarding the collected data

• Use several years of collected data to categorize it and create different management zones

• Overlay the yield variability maps on aerial images of the grove to provide an enhanced visualization of the data

• Create profitability maps that show where grove profit was maximum or minimum, or which areas lost money

• Create application maps based on different management zones for different crop inputs

• Extract machinery-management information such as field efficiency, machine operator performance, total downtime, and actual harvest time

Remote Sensing

Remote sensing refers to the multi-band images that are taken from an airplane, helicopter, or satellites. These images contain spectral reflectance data from the tree canopy and soil.

Laser map of a citrus tree canopy. The map can help determine fertility needs by tree size. “Analyzing these images can provide cost effective and timely information about tree health and soil conditions,” says Ehsani. “For example, it can help in spotting drainage problems in the field or detecting moisture stress. Large citrus growers can use this technology for counting trees and canopy-covered area, and eventually use the information for forecasting crop quality and yield.”

Variable Rate Technology

Variable rate technology (VRT) of inputs is another key component of precision ag, providing economic benefits to growers in the form of reduced use of fertilizer, agrochemicals, and irrigation water, while having a positive environmental impact. A system can be as simple as a variable rate fertilizer spreader with a couple of canopy sensors that can apply the fertilizer based on the tree size.

“The idea of variable rate application of inputs is to save resources, thereby lowering production costs and increasing profits,” says Ehsani. “It also helps to reduce ground water contamination and environmental degradation.”

A University of Florida study found that a VRT spreader costs approximately $29,000. A 15% reduction in fertilizer would save $21 per acre, so 1,380 acres of use would pay for the spreader.

Joby Sherrod, R&D/technical services manager of Duda Products Inc., says he has seen major monetary benefits through the use of VRT. For example, phosphorus has been eliminated from Duda’s standard fertilizer mix. Now, phosphorous is only applied, via VRT, to areas in which soil and leaf tissue tests indicate it is needed.

“We’re using much less phosphorus than when we blanket-applied a maintenance rate to everything. And we’re being more sustainable. By cutting the amount we apply, we cut the dollars spent, and we’re also addressing the needs of the trees better,” says Sherrod.

Ontermaa agrees. “We’ve seen significant savings and reduction of inputs as a result of our soil sampling program and VRT,” he says.

What’s Next?

Ehsani says other precision agriculture technologies that are currently under development at CREC include yield monitoring systems for mechanical harvesters and sensors that detect disease and tree stress atearly stages of development.

Leave a Reply

Business Management Stories
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
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
Ag Retailer and Grower WinField United
Business ManagementMirror Mirror on the Wall, Who is the Most Trusted Ag Advisor of Them All?
April 4, 2017
Who is the most trusted ag advisor of them all? It’s a question I think we’ve all heard before, mind you Read More
Erich Eller ForeFront Ag Solutions with Ag Eagle-drone
Business ManagementForeFront Ag Solutions: Going Beyond The Averages
March 22, 2017
He’s flying essentially solo these days with business support from his wife Jennifer, but Erich Eller has big dreams for 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