Benefits of Precision agricultural engineering
Precision agricultural makes use of information technologies in agriculture. With the satellite positioning system and electronic communication standards, position and time may be integrated into all procedures connected to farming. Today, precision farming (PF) is primarily geared towards site-specific application of fertilizers with the resulting cost advantages being quite small. Thus, precision farming will likely gain in importance only when viable additional benefits, such as reduced environmental burdens and increased flow of information, are recognized and evaluated and become part of the reward itself.
The remote sensing and photogrammetric techniques, combined to the GIS capabilities, enabled us to develop a large database of geomorphological features, retaining the best accuracy and flexibility. Even through fieldwork, GPS equipment was ensuring high accuracy positioning and GIS data entry.
Yield maps, however, were not a useful basis for determining a variable nitrogen application strategy. It was shown that the spatial variation in canopy development with a field can be effectively determined using aerial digital photography for ‘real-time’ management.
As a result of using precision farming by making more informed management decisions and improving input allocation, farmers can become more efficient, lower production costs, and, potentially, increase profits. However, little is currently known about how farmers use PF technologies to support managerial decision making, or about the relative magnitude of benefits and costs of PF technologies on individual farms. Additional research on PF technology is needed to assist the agricultural community in finding answers to questions surrounding the adoption, uses, and the potential management benefits of PF technology.
In response to the question do you think that there are problems with the uptake of ICT in agriculture? 52.3% indicated in the affirmative (Gelb et al., 2001). When asked specifically about PF, 47.6% felt that this technology had unique characteristics that restricted adoption by farmers. Sixty percent of the countries in attendance had at least one representative who felt that there were characteristics unique to PF that restricted its adoption. When asked to identify those factors limiting the use of ICT by farmers, the factors suggested most frequently (in decreasing order of incidence) were cost of technology, too hard to use/unfriendly, no perceived economic or other benefits, do not understand the value of ICT, and lack of training.
Profitability of PF continues to be difficult to predict (Atherton et al., 1999). A study of nine field research sites by Swinton and Lowenberg-DeBoer (1998), found variable rate fertilizer application to be unprofitable on wheat and barley, sometimes profitable on corn, and profitable on sugarbeets. They concluded that because PF practices are site-specific, their profitability potential too is site-specific. Other studies have recognized that the profitability of PF depends heavily on the degree of spatial variability of soil attributes (e.g. soil types, fertility and organic matter) and yield response ( Roberts et al., 2000). These researchers conclude that economic returns of variable rate NPK application can only be determined on a field-by-field basis because returns depend on the specific attributes of each field.
Atherton et al., 1999. B.C. Atherton, M.T. Morgan, S.A. Shearer, T.S. Stombaugh and A.D. Ward , Site-specific farming: a perspective on information needs benefits and limitations. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 54 2 (1999), pp. 455–460.
Roberts et al., 2000. R.K. Roberts, B.C. English and S.B. Mahajanashetti , Evaluating the returns to variable rate nitrogen application. Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics 32 1 (2000), pp. 133–143.