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

CitrusHarness The Marketing Power Of Video
September 1, 2014
Multimedia platform is an effective and inexpensive marketing tool for you to attract new customers and keep existing ones loyal to your brand. Read More
Citrus Achievement AwardDespite Industry Challenges, Florida Citrus Leader Has Optimistic Outlook
September 1, 2014
2014 Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award winner Mike Sparks feels confident in crop sector's ability to regain strength. Read More
CEU SeriesCEU Series: Put Weeds Out To Pasture
September 1, 2014
No matter where they are, plants out of place can be problematic. Read More
CitrusNational Scientific Summit On Herbicide Resistant Weeds Coming In September
August 27, 2014
Topics to be covered include the economics of proactively managing herbicide resistance, education and outreach efforts, and incentives and regulatory initiatives. Read More
CitrusClean Water Conundrum: Ditch The Rule Or Ditch The Myths? [Opinion]
August 26, 2014
Regulation inundation causing a rising tide of confusion for farmers. Read More
OrangesNew Orange Pipeline Full Of Juice
August 25, 2014
Industry stakeholders are working on a rapid release model for processed varieties. Read More
CitrusConsolidated Citrus Eyes Giant Planned Agricultural, Employment Center Project
August 25, 2014
South Florida real estate endeavor includes a 5 million-square-foot industrial park, including 200,000 square feet of retail space and 500 hotel rooms. Read More

The Latest

CitrusHarness The Marketing Power Of Video
September 1, 2014
Multimedia platform is an effective and inexpensive marketing tool for you to attract new customers and keep existing ones loyal to your brand. Read More
CEU SeriesCEU Series: Put Weeds Out To Pasture
September 1, 2014
No matter where they are, plants out of place can be problematic. Read More
CitrusFlorida Department Of Citrus Knocks NPR Piece Over Juic…
August 28, 2014
Agency goes to bat for the industry regarding statement slighting OJ's health benefits. Read More
CitrusFlorida Energy Firm Charged Up About Citrus Biomass Pot…
August 28, 2014
Machine called a game-changer when it comes to a cost-effective, efficient way for tree removal and re-purposing. Read More
CitrusNational Scientific Summit On Herbicide Resistant Weeds…
August 27, 2014
Topics to be covered include the economics of proactively managing herbicide resistance, education and outreach efforts, and incentives and regulatory initiatives. Read More
CitrusClean Water Conundrum: Ditch The Rule Or Ditch The Myth…
August 26, 2014
Regulation inundation causing a rising tide of confusion for farmers. Read More
CitrusCalifornia Citrus Cleared For Chinese Export
August 25, 2014
New agreement addresses concerns over brown rot. Read More
CitrusConsolidated Citrus Eyes Giant Planned Agricultural, Em…
August 25, 2014
South Florida real estate endeavor includes a 5 million-square-foot industrial park, including 200,000 square feet of retail space and 500 hotel rooms. Read More
Citrus‘Super Cold’ Winter, Sizzling Summer On Tap In 2015…
August 21, 2014
The 223rd edition of the folksy regional forecast manual predicting extremes. Read More
CitrusBorder Crisis Not Helping Farmers
August 19, 2014
As thousands cross into the U.S. seeking refuge, calls for ag labor reform are lost in the uproar. Read More
CitrusU.S. Sugar Buying South Florida Sugar Cane And Vegetabl…
August 15, 2014
Purported deal worth $100 million to purchase farmland and assets of Knight Management Inc. Read More
CitrusFlorida’s Future Farming Leaders Dig Up Knowledge…
August 15, 2014
Class 3 of FFVA's Emerging Leader Development Program learn a lot from road trip to California's Salinas Valley. Read More
CitrusWater Bond Will Appear On California Ballot
August 14, 2014
Voters will decide if thirsty state will spend $7.5 billion, including $2.7 billion for storage. Read More
CitrusU.S. Fall Weather Outlook Foresees Wild Ride
August 14, 2014
From continued drought in the West, to a possible early Polar Vortex visit in the East, forecasters are predicting an active autumn. Read More
CitrusMiffed By Marketing? You’re Not Alone [Opinion]
August 13, 2014
Properly promoting product involves engaging your target audience to meet their needs. But based on the campaigns dominating airtime, many are missing the mark. Read More
CitrusUpdate On The Farm Bill Implementation
August 11, 2014
A six-month progress report states disaster relief, risk management tools, innovative conservation partnerships, and the research foundation are all moving forward. Read More
CitrusJohn Deere Announces Certified Pre-Owned Equipment Prog…
August 6, 2014
Deere dealers to offer certified used machines that meet stringent quality inspections and requirements.   Read More
CitrusFarming Production Costs And Farmland Values Increase
August 4, 2014
Midwest sees spike in production costs’ Northern Plains land values increased by 16.3% Read More