Defining Moment For Precision Agriculture

Back in my graduate school days, I had an astronomy professor who on the first day of a course asked each of us in class to define “dirt.” Not surprising, everyone in class had their own definition of dirt. Although, most thought dirt was slang for soil. If that was the case, then we next needed to define “soil.”

While there was a group consensus that soil had something to do with the material in the top layer of the earth’s surface, its composition was up for debate. Some defined it as unconsolidated debris above bedrock. Others defined soil as a mixture of minerals and organic matter above the regolith. Of course, either definition assumes everyone can define “bedrock” and “regolith.” If our common understanding of soil includes the “biological” weathering of material at the top of the earth’s surface in addition to its organic composition, then what is a “soil” on Mars?

Clearly, any reference to a Martian soil assumes the absence of biological material of any kind in our neighboring planet’s surface layer. We would conclude in the case of Mars that the definition of soil would be somewhat restricted, as compared to earth, due to the different parent materials and weathering processes.

This conclusion about a Martian soil was exactly the point of the exercise in defining dirt and soil in the astronomy class. The professor was trying to bring to light the perspectives in our understanding of what constituted a soil. All our knowledge and experience about soils at the time of the course was earthbound. Today, a handful of landers and robots have begun to explore a miniscule fraction of the Martian surface and we are beginning to think of soil on an extraplanetary scale.

Deepening The Definition

OK, so what does all this dirt and soil talk have to do with precision agriculture? Analogous to soils, our definition of precision agriculture is based on our knowledge of the embedded technologies and our experience in applying those technologies to agricultural production.

Precision agriculture began to become popular twenty years ago with the introduction of affordable geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS), which could “precisely” locate you on the earth’s surface with geographic coordinates. The early GIS/GPS definition of precision agriculture suited us well because everyone had so little knowledge and experience with any competing previous technologies. But with its current evolution over the ensuing years, our understanding and, hence, definition of what is precision agriculture has become more diversified and complex.

This evolving complexity of precision agriculture was very evident at the recent InfoAg 2009 conference and is exemplified by the technologies highlighted in this issue. Today, innovations in precision agriculture can be seen in the number of wireless sensors and equipment for vehicle tracking and for removing the necessity of hand-carrying media for software installation and data collection. They are evident in guidance systems, automatic steering, and in seed and spray precision applications. Innovations are also apparent in the abundance of desktop and web-based information technology (IT) solutions to support on-farm decision making.

Enter ‘Efficiency’

In the recent period of economic turbulence and rising production costs, another word has been sneaking into the definition of precision agriculture — “efficiency.” Growers are increasingly seeking technologies and practices that save time, material, and labor, while sustaining yields and net profits. These savings represent efficiency — getting the same or more output with less input. This new emphasis on efficiency in precision agriculture can be seen in the International Plant Nutrition Institute’s (IPNI’s) 4Rs for fertilizing forages: Right source, Right rate, Right time, and Right place. Precision technologies may be in one or more of the “Rs,” but collectively they represent efficiency in fertilizer management. Adding efficiency to precision agriculture technologies helps keep a grower competitive and economically viable in a changing world.

If efficiency is the watchword of precision agriculture today, then how does a grower choose among all the ever-increasing offerings? A grower must know precision technologies much like he or she knows soils in agricultural production. He or she must know the limits and practices of precision technologies in his or her operation just like knowing the limits and practices appropriate for a soil in a field. A grower should have evidence, either through research or a neighbor’s testimonial, that the adoption of a particular precision agriculture technology will be beneficial. Assuming a sustained production output, the efficiency of a particular adopted technology can be calculated in terms of savings, be it materials, labor, or time.

Over the years, as growers learned more about soils, the better managers they became. The same is true for precision agriculture. As growers learn more about precision technologies such as those featured in this issue, they will become more efficient managers. And like soils, precision agriculture will continue to redefine itself as we work with it over time.

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Defining Moment For Precision Agriculture

Business Management Stories
John Deere Dealership
Business ManagementAg Retailer, Equipment Dealer Improve Service By Working Together
January 27, 2017
Some believe that in many aspects of life, timing is everything. Among those believers, please count Randy Bartholomew, Integrated Solutions Read More
Sonny Perdue
Business ManagementAg Tech CEOs Weigh In On Trump’s Pick For Ag Secretary
January 20, 2017
With President-Elect Donald Trump’s selection of Sonny Perdue as the new proposed Secretary of Agriculture, it brings a new set Read More
Terry Griffin
Business ManagementUsing High Tech To Make Farm Decisions
January 17, 2017
Raj Khosla, professor of precision agriculture at Colorado State University, challenged farmers to think about how far the technology of Read More
Business ManagementCNH Names Danford Industry Relations Manager
January 17, 2017
Dan Danford has been named Industry Relations Manager, Precision Solutions and Telematics (PS&T), for CNH Industrial, parent company of agricultural Read More
Trending Articles
Connected Farm Scout Trimble Agriculture - featured image
Decision Support Software17 Field Scouting Apps For Precision Agriculture
February 6, 2017
There are dozens of easy-to-use mobile apps that are ideal for every day field scouting tasks. From record keeping and Read More
John Deere Dealership
Business ManagementAg Retailer, Equipment Dealer Improve Service By Working Together
January 27, 2017
Some believe that in many aspects of life, timing is everything. Among those believers, please count Randy Bartholomew, Integrated Solutions Read More
Innovation SeriesPrecision To Lead Agriculture In 2017?
January 25, 2017
Another new year is upon us! And I’m certain I speak for many in the agricultural world when I say Read More
Terry Griffin
Business ManagementUsing High Tech To Make Farm Decisions
January 17, 2017
Raj Khosla, professor of precision agriculture at Colorado State University, challenged farmers to think about how far the technology of Read More
PrecisionAg.com featured image
ProfessionalsWelcome to the Newly Enhanced PrecisionAg.com
December 29, 2016
Talk a quick look around our website and we hope you’ll notice it’s significantly different as we head into 2017 Read More
Ryan Raguse and Matthew Grassi
ProfessionalsIndustry Executives Talk New PrecisionAg Professional Brand
December 19, 2016
EFC Systems President and CEO Ernie Chappell Myriad Mobile Cofounder and Chairman Ryan Raguse Read More
Latest News
Case IH - AFS AccuStar and UAV Offering - Magnum MX210 AccuStar Receiver
DronesCase IH Adds New GPS Solution, UAV Package To AFS Offer…
February 21, 2017
Driven by the growing demand for efficient data management, the latest Advanced Farming Systems (AFS) solutions from Case IH help Read More
Mobile Phone in field
Systems ManagementBayer Enters Farm Recommendations Arena With Yara Colla…
February 20, 2017
Crop protection and ag biotech giant Bayer and fertilizer producer Yara International ASA have entered into a software collaboration and Read More
Hort TechGrowingProduce.com: Smart Vineyards Set to Revolutioniz…
February 17, 2017
Phil Asmundson is by no means a veteran viticulturist, but a half-dozen years ago, after watching his wife and business Read More
Soil testing
Data ManagementOpinion: Soil Testing Needs Sensors To Get More Accurat…
February 17, 2017
We are entering a very exciting time in agriculture. With so many great software platforms and data collection tools we Read More
Australian Harvest
Decision Support SoftwareGarden City Co-op Added as MZB Regional Mapping Center;…
February 17, 2017
Garden City Co-op (GCC), through a retailer agreement, has been using MZB Technologies as their precision ag platform for a Read More
DronesLand O’Lakes Drone Challenge Crowdsourcing Compet…
February 17, 2017
Land O’Lakes, Inc. is calling on innovators from the tech industry to enter the Land O’Lakes Prize: Drone Challenge, a Read More
DronesDrone Startup Hits VC Jackpot: Skyward Acquired by Veri…
February 16, 2017
Building on its strategy to drive innovation and adoption for IoT services in high-growth markets, Verizon today announced that it Read More
GuidanceCase IH Launches AccuTurn Automated Headland-Turning Te…
February 15, 2017
New AccuTurn automated headland-turning technology from Case IH takes the guesswork out of turning on headlands, which gives you improved Read More
ProfessionalsDeere Details New Connect Mobile App, C850 Air Cart
February 15, 2017
To help growers monitor, adjust and learn from the performance of their planter or sprayer while it moves through the Read More
drones, UAVs, DJI, Aerial Imagery
DronesNDVI Imagery Under $5K? Sentera Outfitting DJI Phantom …
February 15, 2017
Sentera today announced its ability to convert a DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone into a precision scouting tool that collects Read More
Wheat sunrise
Systems ManagementNew Holland Announces New Product Launches
February 15, 2017
New Holland Agriculture expands its product offering with the introduction of three Precision Land Management technologies, PLM Drone Data Management, Read More
Data ManagementJANZEN LAW BLOG: Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms at Center of…
February 14, 2017
A number of poultry growers have filed suit against Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, and other poultry integrators alleging that growers’ Read More
Southern States grower in cab
Innovation SeriesPrecision Agriculture: A Place For Everyone At The Tabl…
February 13, 2017
Over the last 30 days, I’ve been immersed in all things precision agriculture. If you received your personal copy of Read More
Farmer and computer
ProfessionalsPassionate Precision Agriculture Writers Wanted To Join…
February 10, 2017
About The Opportunity: PrecisionAg.com is looking for people to join our team and submit original content to our website about Read More
Mobile Phone in field
Sensors/IoTIoT Will Transform The Agriculture Supply Chain –…
February 10, 2017
Supply chain visibility and efficiency is a big part of running a profitable agricultural business. There are a variety of Read More
Field Sky Beauty shot
Data ManagementField to Market Announces New Metrics Platform Integrat…
February 9, 2017
Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture today announced a comprehensive integration between the sustainability metrics and algorithms of Read More
AGCO White planter 9800VE
Tools & Smart EquipmentAGCO Introduces High Speed White 9800VE Series Planters
February 8, 2017
AGCO Corp., a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment, is bringing to market White Planters™ 9800VE Series planters equipped Read More
World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit Panel 2016
Ag Tech GlobalWorld Agri-Tech Innovation Summit To Be Held In San Fra…
February 8, 2017
“Breakthrough Applications and Business Models for Sustainable Farming” is the theme of the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit to be held Read More