Precision agriculture is a modern farming practice employed to make production more efficient. Precision agriculture, also referred to as “site-specific agriculture”, allows farmers to work smarter rather than harder by tailoring management and cultivation practices according the actual needs of the site. Farmers and site managers can take vast expanses of fields and treat them as smaller plots, reducing the amount of amount of products used, potential misapplications and drift and increasing crop efficiency.
Farmers were the original stewards of the land, they had to be in order to survive. Farmers had to constantly monitor weather patterns, soil characteristics, plant type and hardiness and many other factors. They had to rotate crops based on the needs of the plants and conditions of the soil, this encouraged diversity and allowed them to customize inputs in order to avoid excessive nutrient or salt accumulation and runoff, irrigate appropriately and plant seeds where they will thrive. Precision agriculture harkens back to the times when farming wasn’t a massive industrial venture.
Precision agriculture differs from farming methods of yore by utilizing a variety of technologies developed to further improve efficiency. For instance, some farmers use global positioning systems (GPS) to guide tractors and harvestors. Many other geospatial, site-specific practices engaged in agriculture include; electromagnetic soil mapping, soil sample collection and analysis, crop yield data collection, aerial imagery, crop or soil color index maps, assessing and adjusting soil types, evaluating soil characteristics, carefully monitoring drainage levels and assessing potential yields. All of these geo-referenced data sets allow large fields to be subdivided into more manageable, smaller zones. Smaller management zones will reduce wasteful inputs and improves production potential.
By researching and monitoring all of these factors to customize agricultural practices farmers are able to produce more food and reduce their environmental impact at a fraction of the cost. Precision agriculture conserves soil and water and results in a stable food supply which is highly beneficial to the community and environment.