Global Positioning System or GPS, one of the innovative technologies of this century, has benefited not only the communication industry but the agricultural industry as well. GPS is an important aspect of precision farming, a new method of farming already adapted in Alabama.
In the past, farmers usually thought of a farm or field as having segments of identical characteristics. So when insects or bugs are evident in a certain area of a field, the whole field will be sprayed with insecticides. Or, when weeds are present in a particular segment of crop field, weed killer will be applied to the entire field. Precision farming corrects this error by employing a site-specific method.
How Precision Farming Works
While most of the work in precision farming relies on farming equipment with GPS tracking systems, farm inspection and data gathering is first needed. Data needed for the tracking systems may include soil characteristics of the different segments of the field, crop type or weather conditions. This process may also include lab testing. Once these data are gathered, they will be entered into the different farm equipment in numeric or quantitative forms for use during planting, weeding, insect control and harvesting.
The site-specific method in precision farming simply means that farming methods such as planting, harvesting or weed control will only be employed to specific parts of the farm or crop field that need them; the specific or precise location. The site-specific method however will not work without GPS and a Reference Station-a station that works just like a satellite station in the communication industry. This entails that all farm equipment be GPS enabled and receive GPS measurements from the reference station so their use can be precisely controlled.
In Alabama, a Continuously Operating Reference Station is maintained by the National Geodetic Survey and provides farmers with GPS measurements covering a radius of more than twenty miles. Aside from farmers, the Alabama community also benefits from the reference station especially those who use GPS tracking devices for work and at home.
Benefits of Precision Farming in Alabama
The greatest advantage that the Alabama agriculture industry benefited from precision farming is reduced operating costs. Since unnecessary spraying, weeding or fertilizer applications are avoided, operating costs are reduced by a great deal. And the best thing with reduced operation costs is, Alabama farmers can now offer their produce at a much lesser price.
Another important advantage of precision farming is its effect to Alabama’s environment. Since the use of harmful pesticides or growth regulators are reduced, if not entirely abolished, the Alabama community is benefiting from a much cleaner and greener environment: pesticide-free air and water, and entirely organic agricultural produce.
As a whole, precision farming has been beneficial to the Alabama agricultural community. And given its past success, precision farming was made even more efficient and effective. Precision farming experts Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Auburn University’s Biosystems Engineering Department have dedicated a COR Station which will allow wider coverage for GPS tracking systems.