Precision Farming

Precision Farming refers to precise application of agricultural inputs based on soil, weather and crop requirement to maximize sustainable productivity, quality and profitability.  It includes the use of latest technologies such as remote sensing (RS), GPS, and geographical information system (GIS) with an objective to improve profitability and productivity. Precision Farming gives farmers the ability to use crop inputs more effectively including fertilizers, pesticides, and tillage and irrigation water.  More effective use of inputs means greater crop yield and/or quality, without much polluting the environment.

Potential of Precision Farming

The potential of precision farming lies in the precise use of farm inputs such as water, fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides and the farm equipments. This implies that rather than managing an entire field based upon some hypothetical average condition, precision farming recognizes site-specific requirements within fields and adjusts management actions accordingly. Thus, Precision farming allows taking decisions quickly for small areas within larger fields.

How it is done?

A filed is divided into management zones called grids on the basis of soil pH, nutritional status, pest infestation, yield rates, and other factors that may affect crop production. The management decisions are based on the requirements of each zone.  The tools such as GIS, GPS, etc. are used to control zone inputs. With the use of GPS, exact location for a particular management decision can be found.  For example a farmer mounts a GPS device on the tractor while applying the fertilizers or pesticides.  Crop yield can also be monitored to create maps that show the high and low production areas of a field for improved management decisions.

Technologies used in Precision Agriculture

Mapping & Data Collection
  • Maps generation is the first step in Precision Farming. The maps measure spatial variability and provide the basis for controlling spatial variability.
  • Mapping is done with data collection in the filed related to various spatial variables such as soil type, soil nutrition status, crop density, infestations etc.
  • The data is collected using soil probes and other such tools. Mapping and data collection can be done using the RS, GIS and manual inputs.
Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers
  • The GPS satellites broadcast the signals that allow the GPS receivers to compute their location. The information is provided while in motion.
  • Having precise location information at any time allows soil and crop measurements to be mapped.
Yield monitoring
  • The grain yield monitors measure and record the yield of the crop, which is essential for making sound management decisions.
  • If the yield maps are used properly, they would provide important feedback in determining the inputs such as fertilizer amendments, seed, pesticides and cultural practices including tillage and irrigation.
Remote sensing
  • Remote sensing refers to collection of data from a distance. The data sensors can simply be hand-held devices, mounted on aircraft or satellite-based. The remote sensing provides information about the crop health, moisture, nutrients, compaction, crop diseases etc.
  • For example, the near infrared images that are highly correlated with healthy plant tissue can be recorded in the cameras.
  • RS also provides information about the in-season variability that affects crop yield and extent of crop stress.
Geographic information systems (GIS)
  • Geographic information systems (GIS) use feature attributes and location data to produce maps.

Key Challenges to Precision Farming in India

Though widely adopted in developed countries, the adoption of precision farming in India is yet in infancy primarily due to its unique pattern of land holdings, poor infrastructure, lack of farmers’ inclination to take risk, socio-economic and demographic conditions. The small size of farms and fields in most of Indian agriculture limits economic gains from currently available precision farming technology, while the population density, and public concerns for the environment, food safety and animal welfare means that those potential benefits are being given more attention.

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