Precision Agriculture And Food Issues

The political polarization between liberals and conservatives is well known in the U.S. Each side has their ideology which is bolstered by a few facts and lots of opinions and beliefs.

The same is true in agriculture. There is a polarization between conventional and organic farming. Since more than 90% of the seed planted for corn and soybeans in the U.S. is a genetically-modified organism or GMO, the division is now between GMO and organically grown crops. What is fascinating is that the battle line for GMO vs. organic is not at the point of production but further downstream in the food supply chain. In fact, it is at the point of consumers, whose changing lifestyles are making ripples up and down the chain.

The JAMA Network Journals recently reported that more than two-thirds of adult Americans are either overweight or obese. Overweight and obesity are signs of an unhealthy lifestyle due to eating processed foods high in saturated fats and sugar, consuming oversized meals, no exercise, little sleep and emotional stress. As one ages, an unhealthy lifestyle eventually leads to medical problems, such as high blood pressure, sleep apnea, stroke and diabetes.

Like smoking in the past, when the evidence for poor health becomes overwhelming, people begin to change lifestyles. One of the first changes is usually in their eating habits. People — especially the younger generations — are beginning to judge food not only by its nutritional value, but also by whether it is GMO or organic, locally grown, processed, safely handled, environmentally friendly and sustainability produced. As they seek out better food choices, people are also looking for information to make those choices. This active searching by consumers for new information is impacting vendors throughout the food supply chain.

The division in professional and consumer perceptions about food was recently reported in The Wall Street Journal. In its “Squaring Off” article, the Journal invited advocates on both sides of major food issues to state their positions. Issues included labels required for food containing GMO crops, tax on soda, feedlot vs. open range beef and “deserts” of limited food choices. Each advocate provided facts and arguments to convince the reader of their view on a particular issue.

A Continuing Fight

What immediately becomes apparent when reading competing viewpoints is the biased selection of sources and facts to support a position. For example, in the case of GMO labeling of food, the pro-organic advocate highlighted the presence of novel bacterial, viral and/or other DNA in genetically-engineered crops, while the pro-GMO advocate claimed that organic produce is 10 times more likely to be recalled for bacterial contamination than conventional crops. Given the number of sources, facts and arguments that can be brought to support either position, it is not surprising that an accompanying survey to the Journal article found that 47% of people would avoid eating GMO crops. Like politics, each opposing position is supported by about half the people.

The battle to convince the public to take one side or the other on food issues is far from over. What is an undeniable fact is that obesity has become an epidemic in all age groups and is increasingly contributing to health problems in the U.S. It can be argued that each one of us knows at least one family member or friend who is excessively overweight to the point of needing medical help. This awareness — like the link between cigarettes and cancer — will undoubtedly affect our eating habits and food choices.

And when that awareness sinks in, we will seek out facts about food. It is exactly this point that precision agriculture can contribute valuable data to help consumers make informed choices about food. Precision agriculture is uniquely positioned to provide the facts sought by consumers on how their food is grown. Nearly all precision agriculture software tracks production practices, including the time, types and amounts of materials applied to a field. The same software records the choice of hybrid seed and treatments. Some precision agriculture programs offer a “traceability” service that allows vendors in the food supply chain to be aware of the recorded production practices for a harvested crop. Many of these services offer visual evidence as well as textual records of crop health through a growing season. Additionally, recently-developed online calculators allow growers to enter production practices to determine if their farming systems are environmentally friendly and/or sustainable relative to state, regional and national benchmarks.

Precision agriculture software can do more than account for crop production practices. It can provide precise spatial maps of where a seed is planted or a crop protection product is applied in a field. It can employ water balance models to simulate soil moisture conditions in the field to justify irrigation applications. Software in the form of mobile devise applications or apps can assist a grower in the selection of pest controls based on the intensity of a scouted pest, beneficial organisms, maximum residue limits and environmental regulations.

More Development For Precision Ag

Precision agriculture has all the tools for collecting the crop production data sought by consumers. But these data are not fully integrated into the information flow that originates with the field and ends with the consumer. New programs are needed to facilitate this integration so that downstream vendors can interpret precision agriculture data and pass them on in a language and form understood by consumers. Precision agriculture can expand its role, from providing information to growers for their production decisions to providing data to consumers for their food decisions.

Leave a Reply

Specialty Crops Stories
Corn Field
Industry NewsCNBC: Inside Amazon’s Whole Foods Takeover
June 20, 2017
Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods sent the stock of competing grocery chains plummeting. To understand why, you need to know Read More
DronesNavigating a New World: Drone Technology in Agriculture (OPINION)
June 20, 2017
My first exposure to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) was as a master’s student at Kansas State University. I was researching Read More
DronesAg Drone Update: The Hunt for 1,000 (OPINION)
June 10, 2017
Having obtained my FAA Part 107 Commercial Drone Operators license back in September of last year, I’ve spent the past Read More
Delicato Family Vineyards, Manteca, CA.
Precision IrrigationDelicato Family Vineyards: Integrating Ag Tech from Soil to Glass
June 4, 2017
Tucked away amidst the softly rolling green hills of California’s uber-productive Central Coast Valley, Delicato Family Vineyards (DFV) is quite Read More
Trending Articles
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
EventsPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
Gavin Newsom Forbes AgTech-Summit
ProfessionalsAgTech Summit Aiming High for Modern Farming Solutions
June 12, 2017
THRIVE AgTech, in partnership with SVG Partners and Forbes, is hosting the third annual Forbes AgTech Summit June 28-29 in Read More
Quantix Drone Farmer
DronesTop 10 Most Intriguing Technologies in Agriculture
June 3, 2017
This may be a bit of stating the obvious here, but we’ll throw it out there anyways: as much as Read More
Farming iPad
Data ManagementOpinion: ROI or Die in Precision Agriculture
May 12, 2017
The thought of $3.50 corn for the foreseeable future seems pretty disheartening. However, if you look at the precision ag Read More
BASF Maglis grower retailer tablet
Data ManagementQ&A: What BASF’s Latest Foray into Precision Ag Means For Growers
May 11, 2017
In late April, BASF agreed to acquire U.S. precision ag player ZedX, a leader in the development of agronomic weather, Read More
Mung beans Australia
InternationalPrecision Ag in a Tough Season in Australia
May 8, 2017
This year’s summer crop season has been a tough one for most growers in Australia. Prolonged periods of high temperatures Read More
Latest News
Cotton closeup
Imagery/SensingCotton Growth Management with Precision Agriculture
June 20, 2017
A cotton crop presents some important differences to other commodities that are widely produced in Brazil, such as soybean and Read More
Corn Field
Industry NewsCNBC: Inside Amazon’s Whole Foods Takeover
June 20, 2017
Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods sent the stock of competing grocery chains plummeting. To understand why, you need to know Read More
DronesNavigating a New World: Drone Technology in Agriculture…
June 20, 2017
My first exposure to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) was as a master’s student at Kansas State University. I was researching Read More
Precision Ag Innovation Series
EventsInnovation Series Agenda Zeroes In On Maximizing Key Se…
June 14, 2017
In a recent survey of service providers conducted by PrecisionAg® Professional magazine, more than seven in 10 indicated that variable Read More
Soil Scientists
Data ManagementAccessing USDA Soil Data for Precision Farming
June 13, 2017
Many precision farming websites have integrated the USDA NRCS soil survey database using the USDA Soil Data Access web portal. Read More
GEOSYS In-Season Imagery
Decision Support SoftwareGeosys Announces Imagery and Weather Data Offering
June 13, 2017
Geosys, a provider of agronomic decision support tools, today launched Geosys Labs, a new program that will make its global Read More
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
EventsPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
Decision Support SoftwareMyriad Mobile Raises $1.5 Million to Launch New Ag-Tech…
June 12, 2017
Myriad Mobile, a software technology company focused on mobile and web applications, has raised $1.5 million in a Pre-Series A Read More
center-pivot-irrigation-drop-sprinklers-on-corn
Variable Rate ApplicationVariable-Rate Fertigation Can Be Simple
June 12, 2017
A rule is a rule is a rule, right? Well, not always. Sometimes, rules are meant to be changed. Most Read More
Gavin Newsom Forbes AgTech-Summit
ProfessionalsAgTech Summit Aiming High for Modern Farming Solutions
June 12, 2017
THRIVE AgTech, in partnership with SVG Partners and Forbes, is hosting the third annual Forbes AgTech Summit June 28-29 in Read More
Sensors/IoTLeveraging IoT to Improve Data Collection for Agricultu…
June 12, 2017
Between population growth and climate change, farms of all sizes are being challenged to increase yields. Internet of Things (IoT) Read More
DronesAg Drone Update: The Hunt for 1,000 (OPINION)
June 10, 2017
Having obtained my FAA Part 107 Commercial Drone Operators license back in September of last year, I’ve spent the past Read More
Industry NewsMergers & Acquisitions: Land O’Lakes Tosses E…
June 9, 2017
Land O’Lakes has made a minority equity investment in EFC Systems, an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and precision solution provider Read More
Mixmate-featured-image
Decision Support SoftwareHandy Software, Hardware for the Field
June 7, 2017
More than two decades ago, Iowa grower Doug Applegate wished for a “little portable chemical blending system” that could easily Read More
Decision Support SoftwareHarnessing A Team To Build Your Own Software
June 7, 2017
What’s a powerhouse retail network to do when it can’t find a software system to meet incredibly diverse needs? Build Read More
Tim Ferrell Marshall County Co-op
Decision Support SoftwareWhen It’s Time To Switch Software
June 7, 2017
No one in their right mind wants to change software. That’s the opinion of Tim Ferrell, manager of Marshall County Read More
PA Special Report Enterprise
Decision Support SoftwareSpecial Report: Enterprise Management Systems
June 7, 2017
A functional and stable software system can allow a retail operation to run at maximum efficiency, build customer loyalty and Read More
Farming big data style
ProfessionalsAre You REALLY a Precision Farming #Agvocate? This Summ…
June 6, 2017
Go Feed Yourself. That’s the catchphrase of my favorite ag Twitter personality, Shark Farmer (@sf28430), who besides bringing plenty of Read More