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
two glass goblets of olive oil
Citrus
February 4, 2016
Can Olive Oil Grease Skids For Florida’s Slipping Citrus Trade?
Researchers, interested growers help launch new industry. Read More
Sunkist organic lemons being harvested at the Donlon Ranch in Ventura County, CA by Jane and Ned Donlon, 5th and 6th generation growers, respectively.
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Sunkist Expands Organic Portfolio
With the organic citrus sector growing three times as fast as conventional, the 123-year-old cooperative is keeping up with the times. Read More
money
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Syngenta OKs Buyout By ChemChina
Deal valued at more than $43 billion; Syngenta management team to stay intact. Read More
Flooded vegetable field in South Florida
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Historic Rainfall Hampering South Florida Farms
El Niño express delivering floods, uncertainty for crops. Read More
Rainy welcome at 2016 Florida Citrus Show
Citrus
February 1, 2016
Growers, Industry Leaders Weather The Storm At 2016 Florida Citrus Show
Not even an El Niño-fueled, two-day soaker can keep a flood of attendees from the annual gathering. Read More
A female Diaphorencyrtus aligarhensis shown here is one wasp that specifically targets the Asian citrus psyllid. (Photo credit: Mike Lewis, CISR, UC-Riverside.)
Insect & Disease Update
January 29, 2016
Biology Meets Asian Citrus Psyllid Control
A team of researchers is studying two targeted parasitoid wasps to help prevent the spread of Asian citrus psyllid in the state. Read More
Asian citrus psyllid
Insect & Disease Update
January 25, 2016
Asian Citrus Psyllid Quarantine Area In California Expanded Again
A zone of nearly 100 square miles has been declared in Fresno County following new detection. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
February 10, 2016
Who Will Be Crowned Miss Florida Citrus …
Contestants invited to carry on a time-old industry tradition. Read More
Citrus
February 9, 2016
Revised Forecast Yields Small Victory Fo…
Updated USDA estimate holds serve again; hasn’t dipped since December. Read More
Citrus
February 4, 2016
Can Olive Oil Grease Skids For Florida’s…
Researchers, interested growers help launch new industry. Read More
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Sunkist Expands Organic Portfolio
With the organic citrus sector growing three times as fast as conventional, the 123-year-old cooperative is keeping up with the times. Read More
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Syngenta OKs Buyout By ChemChina
Deal valued at more than $43 billion; Syngenta management team to stay intact. Read More
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Historic Rainfall Hampering South Florid…
El Niño express delivering floods, uncertainty for crops. Read More
Citrus
February 1, 2016
Growers, Industry Leaders Weather The St…
Not even an El Niño-fueled, two-day soaker can keep a flood of attendees from the annual gathering. Read More
Citrus
January 23, 2016
Too Much Cheerleading Has EPA In Deep Wa…
These days, far too often, elected representatives of the people are abdicating their responsibilities to federal agencies. The result is rules like WOTUS. Read More
Citrus
January 22, 2016
It’s Official: 2015 Was Earth’s Wa…
NASA, NOAA analyses reveal record-shattering statistics regarding global temperatures this past year. Read More
Citrus
January 21, 2016
Chance Of Profits Up For Growers Tuned I…
UF/IFAS study confirms how paying attention to the 10-day forecast can affect a farmer’s bottom line. Read More
Citrus
January 20, 2016
Agriculture Agents Intercept Invasive Be…
Notorious wood borer hitched a ride in a container of cucumbers arriving from Costa Rica. Read More
Citrus
January 20, 2016
USDA Report: Pesticide Residues Not A Fo…
Following monthly samplings, survey finds more than 99% of products sampled fall below EPA tolerances for pesticide residues. Read More
Citrus
January 19, 2016
Let’s Raise A Glass To FloridaR…
Challenges with unique solutions are needed to make the agriculture sector stronger. Read More
Citrus
January 18, 2016
Farming Fertility Practices Evolving Wit…
Improving water quality while maintaining production is being achieved in American agriculture. Read More
Citrus
January 16, 2016
3 Products To Better Serve Your Soil
Check out a sampling of the latest soil health enhancers. Read More
Citrus
January 15, 2016
Emphasis On Soil Health Moving Growers T…
There are benefits to be gained by taking care of what lies beneath. Read More
Citrus
January 15, 2016
Port Tampa Bay Embarks On Big Plans To M…
Opportunities for growers abound as the Panama Canal doubles its capacity. Read More
Citrus
January 13, 2016
Florida Legislature Passes Key Water Pol…
Legislation set up to preserve and restore the state’s water and natural resources for future generations. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]