Simple evolution to prescription planting
When we think about technology advancement over the past 20 years a good example is our electronic devices. Smart phones, hand held tablets, sleeker computers; all these devices having data/software storage by the gigabyte and increasing. We live in a technology-driven age with demand for real time information. We have the ability to carry much of our work and current news with us on our smart phones. This technology is common place in our society, but has also incorporated itself quite extensively into production agriculture over the past few years.
Prescription Farming at the Beginning
When thinking about prescription farming, variable rate fertilizing and/or seeding, generally comes to mind. Ag retail had the first major push into technology, through variable rate fertilizer application. Soil samples were taken with GPS technology, creating grids in a field. Sample information was input into software generating a fertility map by zone in the field, thus a prescription was created. Variable rate seeding began with the advent of hydraulic motors serving as the drive or transmission on the planter, giving farmers the chance to change seeding rates on the go. At the same time farmers were also putting GPS receivers and equipment on and in their tractors and combines for auto-steer and yield mapping capabilities. The adoption of this technology gave the farmer the ability to variable rate seed by generating a prescription. The complexity we first faced was creating seeding population zones. Soil maps were logical and easy to use at first, but were not always drawn to scale nor did they account for micro-environments within the zones.
Prescription Farming Today – Nutrient Application
The evolvement of prescription farming has become more of a streamlined process in farming today. Incorporation of the “smart technologies” into the farm, along with modern GPS/rate controlling equipment has led to more fine tuning of seeding prescriptions and nutrient application. Nutrient management has seen an influx of aerial imagery from satellites, airplanes, and now unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s). These aerial devices capture imagery or photographs of the current vegetative condition of the crop. These maps can be used for supplemental or rescue treatments of nutrients, irrigation, or future drainage needs. Side dress nitrogen application has seen the use of optical crop sensing equipment attached to a nitrogen applicator, spreader, or sprayer that can sense crop health and vigor, adjusting rate needed on the go.
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