Advantages Of Precision Agriculture

The Precision Decision

As inputs become more costly, site-specific crop management (precision agriculture) is slowly becoming more widely adopted in Florida citrus production. Used properly, precision ag can contribute to reduced waste, increased profits, and protection of the environment.

“Precision agriculture is not a single technology, but rather a set of many components from which growers can select to form a system that meets their unique needs and operation size,” says Reza Ehsani, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC). “In citrus production, a small change in increasing the efficiency of the input materials or yield could significantly affect the bottom line.”

Esa Ontermaa, precision agriculture coordinator at Lykes Citrus Management Division, says that precision ag includes many technologies, but that they don’t always fit every operation. He cautions growers to have a well-defined purpose and to thoroughly investigate and evaluate the options prior to implementation.

Yield Monitoring

According to Ehsani, collecting yield data is the first step in precision ag. Yield monitoring is the process of measuring fruit yield for a given location and integrating it with GPS-obtained information.

“Yield monitors can provide and document the amount of yield variability at a smaller scale and can lead the way to manage the needs of each individual tree rather than treating the entire block of trees uniformly,” Ehsani says.

Several commercially available software packages can read yield data and create a yield map. Most can:

• Provide detailed statistical information regarding the collected data

• Use several years of collected data to categorize it and create different management zones

• Overlay the yield variability m

aps on aerial images of the grove to provide an enhanced visualization of the data

• Create profitability maps that show where grove profit was maximum or minimum, or which areas lost money

• Create application maps based on different management zones for different crop inputs

• Extract machinery-management information such as field efficiency, machine operator performance, total downtime, and actual harvest time

Remote Sensing

Remote sensing refers to the multi-band images that are taken from an airplane, helicopter, or satellites. These images contain spectral reflectance data from the tree canopy and soil.

“Analyzing these images can provide cost effective and timely information about tree health and soil conditions,” says Ehsani. “For example, it can help in spotting drainage problems in the field or detecting moisture stress. Large citrus growers can use this technology for counting trees and canopy-covered area, and eventually use the information for forecasting crop quality and yield.”

Variable Rate Technology

Variable rate technology (VRT) of inputs is another key component of precision ag, providing economic benefits to growers in the form of reduced use of fertilizer, agrochemicals, and irrigation water, while having a positive environmental impact. A system can be as simple as a variable rate fertilizer spreader with a couple of canopy sensors that can apply the fertilizer based on the tree size.

“The idea of variable rate application of inputs is to save resources, thereby lowering production costs and increasing profits,” says Ehsani. “It also helps to reduce ground water contamination and environmental degradation.”

A University of Florida study found that a VRT spreader costs approximately $29,000. A 15% reduction in fertilizer would save $21 per acre, so 1,380 acres of use would pay for the spreader.

Joby Sherrod, R&D/technical services manager of Duda Products Inc., says he has seen major monetary benefits through the use of VRT. For example, phosphorus has been eliminated from Duda’s standard fertilizer mix. Now, phosphorous is only applied, via VRT, to areas in which soil and leaf tissue tests indicate it is needed.

“We’re using much less phosphorus than when we blanket-applied a maintenance rate to everything. And we’re being more sustainable. By cutting the amount we apply, we cut the dollars spent, and we’re also addressing the needs of the trees better,” says Sherrod.

Ontermaa agrees. “We’ve seen significant savings and reduction of inputs as a result of our soil sampling program and VRT,” he says.

What’s Next

Ehsani says other precision ag technologies that are currently under development at CREC include yield monitoring systems for mechanical harvesters and sensors that detect disease and tree stress atearly stages of development.

Leave a Reply

Citrus Stories
anti-GMO corn spoof via social media
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Social Media Posts On GMOs Falling Flat [Opinion]
Hopefully, the hysteria the West has perpetuated on genetic engineering will not stifle the potential of moving our production forward enough to help feed a growing global population. Read More
non-gmo label leafy greens
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Report Says GMOs Offer No Risk To Human Health
The study stresses the need for proper resistance management, the need for a different ways to evaluate all new crop varieties, regardless of process in which they were developed. Read More
Florida Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam checks out prepared school lunches. School meals are looking more colorful these days as fresh produce finds a place on the tray.
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Full-Time Effort Required To Feed Farm-To-School Programs
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam gives a shout-out to those providing fuel to kids during the school year as well as the summer months. Read More
Photo credit: USDA
Citrus
May 23, 2016
World Health Organization Experts: Glyphosate Not Carcinogenic
Risk unlikely when consuming crops treated with herbicide. Read More
Food safety meeting for growers in Florida
Citrus
May 23, 2016
Florida Growers Putting Food Safety On Front Burner
Specialty crop industry stakeholders hungry to understand what’s ahead as FDA begins implementing new food safety rules. Read More
Participants of a Citrus Health Roundtable hosted by Yara International pose for a post-event photo.
Insect & Disease Update
May 20, 2016
Yara International Pledges $100,000 To Support Florida Agriculture Students
Scholarship will fund University of Florida undergraduate and graduate students. Read More
South Florida farmland
Citrus
May 20, 2016
Florida Farmland Becoming Big Deal For Institutional Investors
Real estate values in the Sunshine State dictated by money looking for a home. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
May 25, 2016
Monsanto Says Bayer Bid ‘Financially Ina…
Proposal cited as undervalued, not able to address financial, regulatory risks. Read More
Citrus
May 25, 2016
NRCS Invests $4.3 Million To Combat Clim…
The Natural Resources Conservation Service in California is committing funds to help farmers and ranchers mitigate the effects of climate change and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Read More
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Panama Canal Expansion To Bring Trade Op…
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says a confluence of events is putting the state's producers in a good spot to open new markets. Read More
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Social Media Posts On GMOs Falling Flat …
Hopefully, the hysteria the West has perpetuated on genetic engineering will not stifle the potential of moving our production forward enough to help feed a growing global population. Read More
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Report Says GMOs Offer No Risk To Human …
The study stresses the need for proper resistance management, the need for a different ways to evaluate all new crop varieties, regardless of process in which they were developed. Read More
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Full-Time Effort Required To Feed Farm-T…
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam gives a shout-out to those providing fuel to kids during the school year as well as the summer months. Read More
Citrus
May 23, 2016
World Health Organization Experts: Glyph…
Risk unlikely when consuming crops treated with herbicide. Read More
Citrus
May 23, 2016
Florida Growers Putting Food Safety On F…
Specialty crop industry stakeholders hungry to understand what’s ahead as FDA begins implementing new food safety rules. Read More
Citrus
May 20, 2016
Florida Farmland Becoming Big Deal For I…
Real estate values in the Sunshine State dictated by money looking for a home. Read More
Citrus
May 19, 2016
Bayer Makes Bid For Monsanto
Monsanto says proposal is being reviewed by board of directors as well as legal and financial advisors. Read More
Citrus
May 17, 2016
$130 Million In Funds For Fruit And Vege…
USDA allocates funds for Extension, organic production, food safety, and technology grants. Read More
Citrus
May 17, 2016
Border Protection Intercepts New Leafhop…
First of its kind found in European shipment. Read More
Citrus
May 16, 2016
3 New Herbicides For Florida Farmers To …
Trio of unique crop protection chemistries beckoning growers to whack weeds with these. Read More
Citrus
May 10, 2016
California Citrus Industry Leaders Slam …
Proposal “defies logic,” because growers are already worried about being ravaged by citrus greening, says California Citrus Mutual. Read More
Citrus
May 10, 2016
Winning Streak Continues For Florida Ora…
Updated crop estimate from USDA reveals uptick for third month in a row. Read More
Citrus
May 10, 2016
Survey: Beekeepers Lost 44% Of Bees Last…
Responses indicate summer losses rival winter losses for second year in a row. Read More
Citrus
May 4, 2016
$6 Million Available For Antimicrobial R…
Program to develop strategies to reduce public health risks in food chain. Read More
Citrus
May 3, 2016
New Program Targets Abandoned California…
Bayer and California Citrus Mutual have teamed up to help protect the state’s commercial citrus industry from deadly citrus greening. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]