Precision agriculture or precision farming is an agricultural concept that is being practiced in several farms in Kentucky. Precision agriculture considers “in-field variability” in deciding when to plant crops. This method of farming is exactly that— precision: farming the right thing, at the right time, using the right method, in the right place.
Precision agriculture is a farming method that aims to maximize profits of Kentucky farmers by varying fertilizer use across the field. How do farmers using this method know what exact amount of fertilizer to be applied?
Precision agriculture relies on cutting-edge technologies including geographic information system (GIS), global positioning system (GPS), sensors, variable rate technologies (VRTs), and remote sensing. The objective of using these technologies is to guide farmers in making decisions how to make use of soil better, predict crop yields, optimize crop yields, and calculate how much fertilizers are needed for use.
The rate of fertilization and amount of fertilizer to be used across a field would vary depending on the need determined by GPS-guided grid sampling. Fertilizers that would have been spent on areas that don’t really require it would be applied to areas that truly need it, thereby maximizing its use.
The first thing that a farmer has to consider before planting a field with crop is soil use. Using GIS guided soil sampling and yield monitoring, Kentucky farmers are able to determine the economics of using soil for one crop as against another. Using these technologies, farmers are able to decide better whether they should plant a field, and what crop and crop rotation to use.
Soil conductivity, as measured using special sensors, is an important factor in determining soil use because it shows topsoil depth versus bedrock depth. However, there’s no clear answer yet how soil conductivity affects farm yield. Agronomy researchers and some universities in Kentucky are doing a study to establish how variability of soil conductivity influences variability of grain yield.
High soil water availability to plants is one of the most important factors that influences high crop yield in Kentucky soils. Studies show that soil water availability is influenced by position and landscape. In most places, site irrigation is the answer to shortage of soil water availability. However, irrigation is not seen as an economically friendly option in many farm fields in Kentucky. Technologies used in precision agriculture can show how to alter soil management and when to alter crop in order to match the availability of soil water to plants. Some crops, for instance, produce more yield where water supply is limited. Nitrogen fertilization, then, would work least in drought areas and would better be not used.
This practice also takes into factors the topographic location, soil temperature, calculated nutrient removed after harvest, and diffusion of phosphorous in cold soils in determining how much yield would a field produce.
Precision agriculture is already a reality in many farms in Kentucky. The practice is also seen to have many benefits. It is friendly to the environment by limiting nitrogen run-off and, therefore, agricultural impact. From a technical perspective, it allows the farmer to have better and more accurate time and soil management. From an economical perspective, it decreases input (nitrogen, effort) while increasing output or yield.