Being a farmer has always been a demanding job. Now, the increased demand for food, rising input prices, labour shortages and supply chain challenges caused by the global pandemic require you to manage operations even more acutely. Adopting precision agriculture practices not only helps you address these challenges, but also enables you to increase production, make inputs go further, get the most out of the land and improve your bottom line.
What is precision agriculture?
Precision agriculture is an approach to farm management that uses key technologies to improve production across the entire farming operation. This practice allows you to be more accurate and controlled during all stages of the cropping cycle, giving your crops the best opportunity to thrive.
At its core, precision agriculture relies on satellite positioning like Global Positioning System (GPS) or, more broadly, Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) to determine the precise location of farming vehicles or to pinpoint areas of the field. This location-based information is essential to performing everyday farming tasks such as guidance and field mapping. Combined with sensors and other mapping tools, GPS positioning enables advanced precision farming tasks such as crop health monitoring, variable rate seeding and fertiliser application, yield monitoring and data collection.
Every field is different. Terrain, climate, soil properties, weather and farm management practices contribute to its performance. Even individual areas within each field can have substantial variability causing fluctuations in yields. By integrating precision farming technologies into your operation, you can address variabilities to boost production. The higher the GPS/GNSS accuracy, the better results you can achieve. A solid implementation of precision agriculture results in maximised yields, increased efficiencies, optimised inputs and labour, lower costs and greater profitability across your operation.
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What are the benefits of precision agriculture?
Precision agriculture benefits all stages of farming – from the planning phase through to the growing cycle and harvest. Because it provides valuable real-time location-based information, you can make informed decisions about your farming operations throughout the season to continue improving.
Saving on costs is one of the primary reasons to invest in precision agriculture technologies. Using high-accuracy GPS/GNSS equipment with an automated steering solution reduces fuel consumption and prolongs the equipment’s service. On a planter, it minimises gaps and overlaps, eliminating seed waste and avoiding unused land where seed was missed. And on a sprayer or spreader, it makes it possible to vary the rate of fertiliser applied to optimise usage. Because precision farming results in simplified and more efficient operations throughout the farming season, it can help reduce the number of hours required in the field and the need for skilled labour.
Using precision farming practices to apply the right amount of inputs to fields can produce healthier crops and achieve greater yields. More control over seed, nutrients, water and other resources means less plant stress and a greater opportunity for them to thrive. As well, by increasing the accuracy of your machines, you will make the most of the field with optimal crop spacing, accurate treatment application and precise field mapping, so you can make the best decisions for a healthier, more robust crop.
Improved efficiencies, reductions in input costs, better crop quality and increased yields all lead to more profitability on the farm. These benefits are possible by adopting precision farm management techniques and technologies. With the addition of each precision farming practice and greater accuracies, profits can increase season after season.
The decision-making process doesn’t just occur at the beginning of a season. Observations about a field can be made throughout the entire growing cycle so you can make adjustments to improve yields. Data collected from precision agriculture technologies can be analysed to help you make better decisions about future management practices.
Every decision has an impact, so reliable and high accuracy data for yields, soils, fertility and topography are paramount. The more information available, the more opportunities you have to lower costs, improve efficiency and surpass yield goals.
In farming, being a steward of the land means feeding more people while limiting the impact on the environment. Precision agriculture leverages technologies to enhance sustainability across the farm by using critical resources more efficiently. It’s about getting the best use of water, fertiliser, herbicides and fuel so that you can use less to grow more.
GPS-based auto-guidance provides better coverage and reduces overlap, resulting in higher fuel economy. Since vehicles stay on-line, the potential for valuable topsoil disturbance is reduced, producing better soil quality over time. When fertilisers, herbicides and other treatments are applied correctly and in the right place, soil health flourishes. Combined with water management strategies such as land forming, drainage and irrigation techniques, the potential for runoff into streams and other waterways decreases.
Regardless of how you farm today, implementing precision technologies can make an impact on the land and other valuable resources.
Maximised land value
Today, arable farmland is scarce. If you are lucky enough to own some, it is typically your most valuable asset. Its value is determined by the potential profits that can be earned, which means every increase in productivity translates to more worth. In recent years, farmland values have remained steady despite disruptions in the market. This is mainly due to the continued adoption of precision agriculture technologies that have boosted agriculture output while reducing costs.
But it’s not just productivity that makes farmland more attractive. Potential renters and buyers of a farm want to know that the land was well taken care of. Land improvement and conservation projects such as drainage, terracing, waterways and buffers contribute to the land’s success. Adoption of precision farming practices has demonstrated less disruption in valuable topsoil and enhanced soil health over time, making the land more productive and sustainable. With the right practices in place, your land can be valued at the highest standard when it comes time to sell.
Precision agriculture technologies
Here are some examples of the types of precision technologies that can help you achieve the benefits above:
- Precision Activation Products:
- Mapping and management tools:
- Satellite imagery for crop monitoring
- Field sensors, including electromagnetic radiation sensors, crop production forecasts, wasteland mapping, soil mapping, water stress sensors, nutrient stress detectors and insect
- Interactive maps
- Grid sampling
- Remote connectivity for fleet management
- Geo-locating systems
- Yield maps and monitors
- Geographical information system (GIS)
- Agricultural drones
- Variable-rate technology
- Automated driving system for tractors, including tractor autosteer
- Remote diagnostics of tractors
- Proximity sensors
Get started with precision agriculture
Whether you are looking to increase yields, save on costs, or improve your farming practices, the more you know, the better decisions you can make.
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Contact your local dealer now and ask about TerraStar Correction Services to get started with precision agriculture.