Precision Ag Technology: The Wide Open Road

We are told that providing the food, feed, fiber and fuel needs for 9 billion people (and at an increased standard of living) will require a doubling of production in the next two to three decades. That means everywhere there is now one ear of corn growing will require two ears, every soybean plant will need to double the number of flowers that survive to form a pod and every head of wheat will need to become two.

Challenging? Yes. But we have met such challenges before, and with the proper focus we will do it again.

The solution comes from sharpening our production systems to make more efficient use of the resources we have. Doubling use of resources is not going to be possible. Land will likely stay constant at best. Water resources are declining in many areas. Nutrient supplies are becoming more expensive and less plentiful. But improved genetics, and improved practices to manage the crops will help reduce resource waste.

Precision farming tools will be implemented to measure, monitor and allocate resources based upon a wide range of sensors networked to decision support centers on the farm linked to other networks in offices of input suppliers or agronomic decision support service centers.

Throughout the season, various sensors and databases will become critical inputs for management decisions. Auto-guidance and other GPS-based systems will become standard and on-board sensors for all field equipment will improve efficiency and within-machine control of all operations.

GIS-based databases for each field documenting all inputs and outputs will help fine-tune crop production decisions. And the information will be readily available on handheld communicators — such as today’s smartphones and tablets — adapted with specific features and “apps” for agricultural use. And it will all be network throughout the farming business with secure access as needed for the farmer, as well as his managers, consultants, landowners and input suppliers.

At planting, complete source, rate and positioning control of seed, fertilizer and pesticide inputs will be made possible. On-board controllers linked to sensors on the equipment will provide real-time input linked to on-farm records and various off-site databases, and they will be integrated in decision models that provide instantaneous site-specific adjustments to the controllers.

This fine-tuning of inputs and agronomic factors will help make the efficiency improvements and yield-optimization decisions to gain the next increments of yield from the new genetic materials that are themselves designed for the specific location, and may even be changed from one part of a field to another.

Benefits All Season Long

In-season monitoring of plant nutrition and pest pressures will also be fine-tuned to enable quick turn-around on decisions needed to take corrective action. Human field scouts (CCAs) will continue to be a key part of this process, but they will be using a wide range of tools such as digital cameras, drones, and robotics to make their field visits more targeted and efficient.

Drones of many types will become common in the field for capturing imagery, determining plant conditions and population density, for monitoring atmospheric gases and maybe even for collecting samples. Small, hummingbird-sized drones can zip around fields equipped with sensors or cameras to collect information very quickly and economically. Others may be the size of a bumblebee — nearly invisible, but very effective at monitoring.

Larger multi-rotor helicopters hovering over fields will help identify areas needing a closer look. Field scouts, or maybe robots, will hone in on the area needing attention for taking decisive action. Sensors in tile outlets or in the field will control drainage based upon rainfall, water table level, water flow and nitrate content, helping improve water use efficiency, reduce pollution of water bodies and reduce drought impact.

When it comes to harvest, more precision sensing and monitoring systems come into play. Yield monitors will continue to improve in performance and user interface. Most important, yield monitor data will become more important in documenting actual harvest and variability within the field. Additional grain quality factors — moisture, protein, and other components — will be monitored on-the-go and recorded with GIS coordinates for mapping future decisions and for documenting relationships with variability in soil tests, soil nutrient supplies and more.

Other Cool Stuff

All of this doesn’t even consider the potential use of nano-technology sensors to help monitor crop conditions and issue weather, moisture, nutrient or pest alerts. It doesn’t consider the capabilities of linking such tools through communication networks to provide farm-wide surveillance or multi-farm summarization of crop status or field observations.

It also doesn’t propose application of these on-farm data systems in conjunction with supercomputer applications to build databases on a state, national or global basis, but that is a real possibility with installations like the new National Science Foundation Blue Waters system at the University of Illinois. Initially targeted for complex space research, Blue Waters opens new potential for managing the huge databases agricultural models and decision systems will use in the future. Will we be comfortable with sharing such information about our farms? Will we be bold enough to make it happen? How much will it contribute to global crop production and security of our crop supplies to meet the food, feed, fiber and fuel needs of the 9 billion people on the Earth? The next few years of precision agriculture will be an exciting opportunity to test these questions.

Most of this technology is available today. We just need to be creative and integrate the pieces together. It the future it may be required for legal documentation. But it definitely has possible applications in guiding input decisions. It will be the edge top producers use to stay one-step-ahead. As it becomes more widely adopted, it will become an essential part of doing business, just as the innovative technologies 20 years ago are now common practice.

Bottom line — don’t slip off the learning curve if you want to stay in farming. Fasten your seat belt for an exciting ride.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 comments on “Precision Ag Technology: The Wide Open Road

Computers Stories
senseFLY’s eBee UAV
ComputerssenseFly, Mobile App Developer Launch Drone Awareness Safety App
August 18, 2016
Professional drone maker, senseFly, has teamed up with the popular aviation navigation app, Air Navigation Pro, to launch Safer Together. Read More
Back 40 - RTKonnect
ComputersBack 40 Precision Releases RTK Caster Software
July 28, 2016
Back 40 Precision is proud to announce the public release of their RTK caster software. Their program is comprised of Read More
Deere S-Series Combine
ComputersJohn Deere Operations Center Releases New Software
July 7, 2016
The John Deere Operations Center provides value to growers with tools and features that enable them to easily access farm Read More
CropMetrics VRI Speed Control
ComputersCropMetrics Releases Latest Variable Rate Irrigation Software
July 6, 2016
Made for growers, by growers, CropMetrics creates easy-to-use software that can be integrated with current precision ag software. The latest Read More
Trending Articles
Business2016 Farm Science Review: Talkin’ New Products, Education and Big Data
September 21, 2016
The Ohio State University’s Farm Science Review has become an annual rite of fall for Buckeye State growers, retailers and Read More
Mitchell Technical Institute students with drone
IntegratorsMTI Precision Ag Students Use Drone Technology
September 19, 2016
After weeks of sitting in the classroom, several Mitchell Technical Institute students were able to spend a few hours outside Read More
Robotics AGCO Fendt Guide Connect
Market ImpactReport: Ag Robots And Drones May Be A $10 Billion Market By 2022
September 7, 2016
Robots and drones have begun to quietly transform many aspects of agriculture. In fact, the IDTechEx Research report on Agricultural Read More
SDWG Bret Weisenburger
BusinessMZB Technologies, Climate FieldView Announce Data Integration for 2017 Season
September 6, 2016
MZB Technologies announces a data connectivity agreement with The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., providing increased precision agriculture Read More
Deere R4023 cab
BusinessReport: Smart Agriculture Market Worth $19 Billion By 2021
September 6, 2016
Research and Markets has announced the addition of the “Smart Agriculture Market – With Forecast (2016-2021)” report to their offering. Read More
SDWG Bret Weisenburger
IntegratorsThe Top 10 People In Precision Agriculture
August 15, 2016
Precision agriculture — with all its wacky technologies and advanced algorithms and such — remains a people business. So, without Read More
Latest News
FUSE Farm Graphic
DataAGCO Is Founding Member Of The DKE Data-Hub Initiative
September 26, 2016
AGCO Corp., a world-leading manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment, has announced its participation as a founding member of the DKE Read More
Ian Yule, ISPA
ResearchLeading Ag Technology Researcher Appointed ISPA Preside…
September 26, 2016
Massey University’s Professor Ian Yule, one of the world’s leading agri-tech researchers, has been voted president of the International Society Read More
BusinessADAPT Conversion Toolkit Making In Roads With Equipment…
September 22, 2016
A leading group of equipment manufacturers will soon release products that greatly enhance a grower’s ability to manage data across Read More
Business2016 Farm Science Review: Talkin’ New Products, Educati…
September 21, 2016
The Ohio State University’s Farm Science Review has become an annual rite of fall for Buckeye State growers, retailers and Read More
Farmers Edge Truck
DataFarmers Edge Awarded $6.1M Investment From Sustainable …
September 21, 2016
Farmers Edge, a global leader in precision agriculture and independent data management solutions, has announced that it will receive $6,107,563 Read More
BusinessGMO Aphids to Battle Weeds? It’s Not as Far Fetch…
September 21, 2016
No, I am not talking about optimizing aphids for a global agricultural armageddon. That would be silly. I’m talking about Read More
Young Corn Field
Best PracticesNitrogen: The Key to Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
September 20, 2016
Precision ag can play a key role in reducing agriculture’s impact on greenhouse gases by limiting the nitrogen rate. Read More
W. Wade Robey, Raven
Industry NewsRaven Adds New Director Of Engineering
September 19, 2016
W. Wade Robey, Ph.D., joined Raven Applied Technology in August 2016 as Director of Engineering. In this role, he leads Read More
Mitchell Technical Institute students with drone
IntegratorsMTI Precision Ag Students Use Drone Technology
September 19, 2016
After weeks of sitting in the classroom, several Mitchell Technical Institute students were able to spend a few hours outside Read More
BusinessOPINION: Climate Corp. is the Jewel in Bayer’s Monsanto…
September 15, 2016
PERSPECTIVE: Over the next few days and weeks in the ag media space the major players will examine this latest Read More
Sugarcane India
Market ImpactPlantations International Brings Precision Farming Tech…
September 14, 2016
Hong Kong-based plantation and farm management company Plantations International has announced it is moving its contact centre from the Indian Read More
Corn close up
Start-UpsLewis & Clark Ventures Raises $20 Million For Agric…
September 13, 2016
Lewis & Clark Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on Series A and B stage investments, has announced $20 million Read More
BusinessSentera Joins Forces With Another Drone Distributor
September 13, 2016
Sentera has signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Dynamic UAV Solutions North America, LLC, a new distributor in the commercial Read More
New Zealand agriculture
Market ImpactPrecision Ag Technology Helping New Zealand Agriculture…
September 12, 2016
New Zealand has an enormous opportunity to use technology as a means to support the economic growth of its agri Read More
Robotics AGCO Fendt Guide Connect
Market ImpactReport: Ag Robots And Drones May Be A $10 Billion Marke…
September 7, 2016
Robots and drones have begun to quietly transform many aspects of agriculture. In fact, the IDTechEx Research report on Agricultural Read More
EventsPrecisionAg Vision Conference: Find Your Future in Phoe…
September 7, 2016
As the summer winds down and harvest begins in earnest, the time for immersing ourselves in future planning is getting Read More
SDWG Bret Weisenburger
BusinessMZB Technologies, Climate FieldView Announce Data Integ…
September 6, 2016
MZB Technologies announces a data connectivity agreement with The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., providing increased precision agriculture Read More
DigiFarm
Start-UpsDigiFarm Puts The Precision In Precision Agriculture
September 6, 2016
While the general public adjusts to the idea of self-driving cars, in the agricultural world it’s old hat, writes Joe Read More