As has been covered frequently in this blog, agriculture is one of the oldest industries known to humankind - some might even say it’s the oldest, full stop. However, that doesn’t mean that the work of farming today resembles that of thousands of years ago. In fact, it doesn’t even resemble farming from 50 years ago.
Just like any other field, agriculture is constantly adapting to new technological changes and embracing new innovations. For those who work in the industry, implementing new methods of boosting crop yields have resulted in increased profits.
Additionally, in many instances, precision agriculture has also allowed farmers to simplify processes that once may have proven tedious or time-consuming. By taking advantage of emerging technologies and staying on top of new farming methods, they’ve streamlined their tasks and become more efficient.
That said, you don’t need to work in the industry to benefit. When farms produce more food, the global population as a whole is better off.
What is precision agriculture?
To better understand why precision agriculture is so important, it pays to spend a little bit of time getting familiar with the concept. Precision agriculture refers to a broad constellation of farming tools, techniques, and methods used to manage production within individual fields of crops. A single blog post can’t begin to cover every subtopic that falls under the larger heading of precision agriculture.
On the other hand, having a deeper familiarity with what this approach to farming entails can allow everyone - from casual readers to industry veterans - to more fully appreciate how the industries of agriculture and agrochemicals are always developing.
Quite simply, precision agriculture involves farmers’ ability to hone in more closely on the specific needs of small sections of crops. In the past, it was difficult to monitor particular plants that closely.
The approach of trying to determine which crops were thriving and which were not on a case-by-case basis did not lend itself to efficiency. Unfortunately, this often meant that crop yields were not optimized. Additionally, resources like fertilizer, herbicides, and other agrochemicals were sometimes wasted.
What would happen without precision agriculture?
As an example, imagine that in one small section of a farm, there is an even smaller section of crops that do not appear to be receiving sufficient nutrition. Without precision farming techniques, there were generally two potential outcomes in a situation like this one.
In the first scenario, a farmer might discover that some crops in this section were not receiving all the nutrients they needed. He or she would then correct the problem by applying fertilizer or any other necessary resources throughout the entire section of the field.
While this may have been effective when it came to helping the unhealthy plants thrive, it was also wasteful. Many of the other plants in that section of the field didn’t need additional nutrients, so fertilizer and other resources are wasted on crops that already have all the nutrients they require.
The other potential outcome wasn’t any better. If those unhealthy crops were a small part of a larger section, surrounded primarily by healthier crops, the farmer might overlook them. This would deny those crops the additional resources they required to grow as fully as possible. Such a practice may have prevented waste, but it also meant that those crops wouldn’t grow. Additionally, the amount of food the farm produced wasn’t as substantial as it could have been.
How does precision agriculture address these issues?
Precision agriculture represents an attempt to solve this problem. A large component of precision agriculture involves using technologies like aerial drones to create detailed maps of a field. These maps divide crops into much smaller sections than they previously would have been. This allows a farmer to account for a greater number of potential variables that could impact the health of a given set of crops.
Suppose a farmer recognizes that the crops in one area seem to be less healthy than those that surround them. By using precision agriculture, he or she can more effectively provide those crops with the resources they need. Furthermore, farmers can do so without wasting resources on crops that don’t need them.
Precision agriculture also allows a farmer to identify small areas where crops seem healthier than normal. By taking stock of the numerous variables and factors that might account for this, farmers can more easily determine what steps they should take to ensure all their crops are just as healthy.
This doesn’t just help farms make more money. First and foremost, it helps them to grow more food for the people of the world. That’s why precision agriculture is important, whether you work in the industry or not. As this approach to farming continues to develop, the fight against hunger could get much easier.