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
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 Head of North American Precision Farming Efforts
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
Business ManagementBREAKING: FAA Considering Less Restrictive Commercial Drone Regulations
January 11, 2017
FAA is working toward allowing more freedom for drone operators, and at the same time is working with NASA on Read More
Topcon X30 Console in cab
Business ManagementA New Precision Vision
December 29, 2016
It’s been an incredible year for the team here at Preci­sionAg Media. We have more than two decades in as Read More
Trending Articles
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
PrecisionAg Professional logo
Industry NewsMeister Media Debuts PrecisionAg Professional
December 13, 2016
Agricultural technology is accelerating, and precision agriculture is gaining renewed interest across cropping systems. At the same time, growers are Read More
NDSU IoT
Sensors/IoTNew Farming Focused IoT Partnership Announced
December 13, 2016
Infiswift, an enterprise Internet of Things (IoT) platform developer, announces a partnership to develop IoT solutions with Acuitus Ag, an Read More
GVM E-Series cab
Ag Tech GlobalGlobalization And Precision Agriculture
December 7, 2016
Globalization has taken on a negative connotation in some circles in the U.S. in recent months. The lightning rod for Read More
Farmers Edge Truck
Data ManagementFarmers Edge, Trotter Fertilizer Form Partnership To Enhance VRT Programs
November 29, 2016
Farmers Edge, a global leader in precision agriculture and independent data management solutions, has partnered with Trotter Fertilizer, Nebraska’s foremost Read More
Latest News
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
Decisive Farming My Farm Manager mobile app
Ag Tech GlobalLeading Canadian Farming Co-op Brings In New Tech To Bo…
January 17, 2017
Co-op, one of the largest agricultural retailers in Western Canada, is partnering with farm management company Decisive Farming to provide Read More
Business ManagementCNH Names Danford Head of North American Precision Farm…
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
Australian Harvest
Ag Tech GlobalAustralian Precision Agriculture Market, Forecast To 20…
January 13, 2017
Research and Markets has announced the addition of the “Australian Precision Agriculture Market, Forecast to 2020” report to their offering. Read More
Norris planter
Innovation SeriesCompelling Consultant Panel Kicks Off Next Month’s Prec…
January 12, 2017
Jeremy Wilson, Technology Specialist at CropIMS and renowned precision expert, leads a panel of top precision consultants to kick off Read More
Data ManagementProspera Selected for Top 100 Artificial Intelligence R…
January 11, 2017
CB Insights today selected Prospera to the prestigious Artificial Intelligence 100 list (“AI 100”), a select group of emerging private Read More
Business ManagementBREAKING: FAA Considering Less Restrictive Commercial D…
January 11, 2017
FAA is working toward allowing more freedom for drone operators, and at the same time is working with NASA on Read More
DronessenseFly, Agribotix Combine eBee SQ and FarmLens Offeri…
January 11, 2017
Agribotix has partnered with senseFly to offer a new combined solution for professional users. This technology solution combines the top Read More
Sentera software
DronesSentera Announces NDVI Livestream Capabilities for Doub…
January 10, 2017
Sentera today announced the upcoming release of LiveNDVI Video: livestreamed NDVI video via Sentera’s Double 4K sensor. This breakthrough technology Read More
Young Corn Field
Ag Tech GlobalEurocontrol To Commercialize Precision Agricultural Ini…
January 9, 2017
Eurocontrol Technics Group Inc., a Canadian public company specializing in the acquisition, development and commercialization of innovative test and measurement Read More
Corn Field
Data ManagementWaypoint Analytical, Highland Precision Ag Announce Str…
January 9, 2017
Waypoint Analytical (WP), based in Memphis, TN, and Highland Precision Ag (HPA), based in Mulberry, FL, are pleased to announce Read More
Western Canada Wheat field
EventsSixth Annual Precision Ag Summit Set for January 16-17 …
January 4, 2017
The 6th annual Precision Ag Summit will be held Jan. 16-17, at the North Dakota Farmers Union Conference Center in Read More
University of California Merced Professor Stefano Carpin
Hort TechRobots, People Working Together To Save Water, Enhance …
January 3, 2017
A nearly $1 million grant from the USDA is helping University of California researchers refine collaborative robotic technology that could Read More
Wade Barnes Farmers Edge using FarmCommand
Data ManagementFarmers Edge Makes Precision Ag Simple
January 3, 2017
Jon Labine of Argyle, MN, is a regional sales representative for Farmers Edge Inc., one of the latest entries in Read More
DV Wing Drone Volt
DronesDV WING: A Drone Dedicated To Precision Agriculture
January 3, 2017
DRONE VOLT is launching its new fixed-wing unit, a light and compact UAV dedicated to precision agriculture and construction work, 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
Topcon X30 Console in cab
Business ManagementA New Precision Vision
December 29, 2016
It’s been an incredible year for the team here at Preci­sionAg Media. We have more than two decades in as Read More
EventsAgenda Is Taking Shape For February Innovation Series C…
December 29, 2016
Precision ag technology integrators — those businesses providing agronomy services and technology consulting to farmers — can take advantage of a full Read More