Agricultural sector has witnessed remarkable revolutions since 1900 that brought sophistication and advancement in agricultural methods. The first revolution came during the 1900s and 1930s and encouraged the implementation of mechanized agriculture. Farmers were encouraged to use modern agricultural machinery to increase agricultural output. The use of machinery led to a considerable increase in the efficiency of agricultural productivity per person. During the early 1960s, the agricultural sector witnessed the Green Revolution which focused on three important things; the use of High-yielding variety (HYV) of seeds, application of fertilizers and modern irrigation methods. However, the dawn of precision agriculture in 1990s has revolutionized the agricultural sector in real terms.
No one can deny the importance of cutting-edge technology in today’s fast paced world. No sector of economy can progress without adopting modern technological tools. This is the very reason why precision agriculture has gained immediate attention of farmers and policy makers alike who focus on use of information technology to increase agricultural output and achieve greater efficiency. Precision agriculture is an important component of third wave of agricultural revolution and has enhanced hopes of battling food crises by increasing global food production with the help of new technological advancements.
Understanding Precision Agriculture
Precision agriculture is a modern farm management approach. It focuses on use of information technology tool such as GPS guidance, sensors, robotics, drones, autonomous vehicles, GPS-based soil sampling, automated hardware, and telematics to increase agricultural productivity.
The idea of precision agriculture was born in the 1990s with the birth of GPS guidance system for farm tractors. It was John Deere who first introduced the novel idea of using GPS location data from satellite in farms. With the help of precision agriculture, farmers can predict weather, make informed decisions pertaining to fertilizer application, use satellite and aerial imagery for crop planning. With the help of precision agriculture, farmers can get important information pertaining to soil data, obtain topographical map and perform precise planting.
Tools employed in precision agriculture
Proximate sensors technology
Sensors detect important signals in environment such as the heat intensity, quantity of moisture, and light signals. Precision agriculture helps farmers detect moisture content and temperature intensity and their subsequent impact on crops. Farmers may identify any stress experienced by livestock with the help of sensors and fix the problem.
Similarly, remote sensing is used by farmers to make crucial decisions pertaining to crop rotation, and irrigation.
Variable Rate Technology (VRT)
This technology assists in decision making related to applying fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides in variable rate. It also helps in promoting sustainable environmental practices by allowing farmers to use water-saving irrigation technologies. VRT also helps in balancing the pH levels of soils which, if too high or low, can have detrimental impact on crop yield.
Global Positioning System (GPS)
GPS system stores, retrieves, and analyzes geographical information using a map. It helps farmers in identifying correct location to grow crops, study soil samples, use fertilizers in a balanced quantity and monitor yield data.
Drones are known to capture high quality images. This satellite imagery can be combined with real-time data to predict future crop production.
Farm machinery can be programmed by GPS to plow land, sprinkle pesticides, spread fertilizers and identify pests and weeds. Many solar powered machines are used to deal with the herbicides, weedicides and different forms of insects. Farmers in developed countries are using laser technology to kill insects.
Similarly, the invention of agricultural robots is a startling invention of science. These agricultural robots can be used to identify ripe fruits, and pluck them with care from the branches.
How is Precision Agriculture beneficial?
The goal of precision agriculture is to enhance the sustainability, productivity and profitability of farms. It focuses on three important areas.
The first area of concern is to help farmers increase profitability. Precision agriculture allows farmers to choose crops and market strategically. In this way, they can take advantage of the opportunities existing in the market by growing and selling the right crops. Precision agriculture helps in improving the quality and quantity of crops, thereby, increasing profitability.
The second area of concern is to increase the efficiency of farms. With the adoption of precision agriculture, farmers implement technological solutions to everyday farm problems. From adopting the right crop pattern to using the right seeds and making accurate weather predictions, precision agriculture helps farmers to perform farming smartly by capturing real-time data. It helps in measuring the performance of the farmers by capturing farm data. As a result, farmers can make incremental improvements in farming practices every season. It is also a reliable tool to manage costs.
Sustainability is the buzz word of twenty century. With limited resources and increasing environmental degradation, there is renewed focus on ensuring economically viable and environmentally friendly agricultural methods. This is where precision agriculture comes in handy. The use of GPS guidance, aerial mapping, robotics, and drones promotes sustainable agricultural practices which have a positive impact on the social, environmental and economic aspects of the farm.
Precision agriculture has introduced innovative methods to perform traditional farming processes such as irrigation, crop planning, and replanting, recording farm data and conduct soil tests. The importance of precision agriculture also increases with the looming threat of food crisis and hunger. As part of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, it is important to battle water losses and improve agricultural productivity for sustainable food production.
However, implementation of precision agriculture remains a challenge due to high costs, lack of experience and knowledge to use drones, robots and other tools. The environment and economic benefits of precision agriculture are also known and further support use of modern technology in the agricultural sector. The future of agriculture sector lies in embracing modern technologies and as such precision agriculture.