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.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

Citrus Stories
Citrus
November 14, 2017
USDA Announces Grants to Promote IPM Practices
Methyl bromide transition, crop protection management among programs funded. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
Biostimulants Making Big Strides as It Seeks Organization
The inaugural BiocontrolsSM USA East Conference & Expo in Orlando, FL, featured two days of educational sessions focused on how Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
So What Exactly Are Biostimulants, Anyway?
Biostimulants are one of the hottest new topics in specialty crops, but most growers could use a little clarity on where they fit. Here are the basics you need to know. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
Microbial-based Biostimulants: Big Potential in Small Packages
There is no shortage of interest in or questions and opinions about biostimulants. Many are working to develop them as Read More
Citrus fruit drop from Hurricane Irma as seen during Biocontrols East 2017 tour
Citrus
November 9, 2017
Forecasters Subtract another Slice from Florida Citrus
USDA’s second stab at the season thins orange crop by another 7%; would be lowest output in more than 70 years. Read More
Citrus
November 7, 2017
New Tool Helps Growers Improve Phosphorus Efficiency
Technology newly available to specialty crop growers provides economic and environmental benefits. Read More
Citrus
November 7, 2017
Comments Sought in Ag Water Component of FSMA
Growers and other interested parties are encouraged by United Fresh to weigh in on agricultural water requirements in the Food Safety Modernization Act. Read More
Sun-and-moon
Citrus
November 7, 2017
Study: Circadian Clock in Plants May Boost Water Efficiency
The Texas A&M team that won a 2017 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine on circadian rhythm at a molecular level turn their attention to plants. Read More
Citrus stew courtesy of Irma
Citrus
November 6, 2017
South Florida Wringing out From Record-Setting Wet Season
Tropical torrents, along with a persistent precipitation pattern, helps break 70-year high-water mark. Read More
Citrus
November 2, 2017
Field Scouting Guide: Yellow Nutsedge
Follow these tips to identify and manage this wily weed. Read More
Citrus
November 1, 2017
Produce Industry Leaders Concerned About H-2C Amendments
It’s been a long time since significant immigration reform that will help American growers has passed Congress. The most promising Read More
Joseph Lowell Loadholtz
Citrus
October 30, 2017
Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Makes Room for Four More
Outstanding lifetime achievers in the state’s farming sector join elite list of honorees. Read More
Citrus
October 25, 2017
After a Delay, H-2C Is Getting a Committee Review
The Ag Worker Act must make it past the Judiciary Committee to have a chance of making it to the House floor. Read More
Immokalee< FL, Farm and Grove aerial view
Business Planning
October 25, 2017
Matchmaking Made Easy for Land Owners and Seekers
New website provides revenue potential for property holders. Read More
Benny McLean talks Tamarixia wasps during Biocontrols East 2017 tour
Biocontrols Conference
October 23, 2017
Biocontrol Gains Traction in the East
Biological control — whether you’re talking about biochemicals, microbial products, beneficials, or even the relatively new category of biostimulants — Read More
The Latest
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Alico Overhaul to Cut Citrus Production …
Company restructuring aims to integrate legacy businesses and reduce input costs significantly. Read More
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Sustainable Farming Projects in Florida …
St. Johns River Water Management District grants backing to 12 on-farm plans aimed at resource conservation and nutrient reduction. Read More
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Florida Citrus Tree Rehab in Full Swing …
With Hurricane Irma well in the rear view, growers and researchers hope to work groves back to a productive state as HLB rages on. Read More
Citrus
November 14, 2017
USDA Announces Grants to Promote IPM Pra…
Methyl bromide transition, crop protection management among programs funded. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
Biostimulants Making Big Strides as It S…
The inaugural BiocontrolsSM USA East Conference & Expo in Orlando, FL, featured two days of educational sessions focused on how Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
So What Exactly Are Biostimulants, Anywa…
Biostimulants are one of the hottest new topics in specialty crops, but most growers could use a little clarity on where they fit. Here are the basics you need to know. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
Microbial-based Biostimulants: Big Poten…
There is no shortage of interest in or questions and opinions about biostimulants. Many are working to develop them as Read More
Citrus
November 9, 2017
Forecasters Subtract another Slice from …
USDA’s second stab at the season thins orange crop by another 7%; would be lowest output in more than 70 years. Read More
Citrus
November 7, 2017
New Tool Helps Growers Improve Phosphoru…
Technology newly available to specialty crop growers provides economic and environmental benefits. Read More
Citrus
November 7, 2017
Comments Sought in Ag Water Component of…
Growers and other interested parties are encouraged by United Fresh to weigh in on agricultural water requirements in the Food Safety Modernization Act. Read More
Citrus
November 7, 2017
Study: Circadian Clock in Plants May Boo…
The Texas A&M team that won a 2017 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine on circadian rhythm at a molecular level turn their attention to plants. Read More
Citrus
November 6, 2017
South Florida Wringing out From Record-S…
Tropical torrents, along with a persistent precipitation pattern, helps break 70-year high-water mark. Read More
Citrus
November 2, 2017
Field Scouting Guide: Yellow Nutsedge
Follow these tips to identify and manage this wily weed. Read More
Citrus
November 1, 2017
Produce Industry Leaders Concerned About…
It’s been a long time since significant immigration reform that will help American growers has passed Congress. The most promising Read More
Citrus
October 30, 2017
Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Makes …
Outstanding lifetime achievers in the state’s farming sector join elite list of honorees. Read More
Citrus
October 25, 2017
After a Delay, H-2C Is Getting a Committ…
The Ag Worker Act must make it past the Judiciary Committee to have a chance of making it to the House floor. Read More
Business Planning
October 25, 2017
Matchmaking Made Easy for Land Owners an…
New website provides revenue potential for property holders. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
October 23, 2017
Biocontrol Gains Traction in the East
Biological control — whether you’re talking about biochemicals, microbial products, beneficials, or even the relatively new category of biostimulants — Read More