Defining Precision Agriculture In Vegetable Growing

Editor’s Note: Sometimes we throw around a term like “precision agriculture” so much that it loses its precise meaning. So we caught up with an expert, Tim East, Trimble Navigation Limited’s Strategic Account Manager, North America Agriculture, who answered some questions on everything from what precision ag really means to how it benefits growers — today and tomorrow.

Q1 What is your definition of precision agriculture?

Tim East: From an agronomic perspective, precision agriculture is defined as “The application of technologies and principles to manage time and location variability associated with all aspects of agricultural production for the purpose of improving crop performance, profitability, and environmental quality.” While this is factually correct, it may be difficult to apply this textbook definition to your every day farming operations. An easier way to define precision agriculture is “The process of putting the right thing, in the right amount, in the right place, at the right time.”

Q2 So precision agriculture is a pretty big topic, and is likely an elusive one for many growers. What does precision agriculture entail? Guidance systems are probably the first thing that comes to mind for most growers, correct?

East: Precision agriculture started primarily with guidance and it can be considered to be the backbone of a precision agriculture solution. Automated application systems, water management products, and information management solutions are built on guidance and positioning systems to provide faster machine operation, higher yields, and lower consumption of chemicals than conventional equipment. A combination of these systems can be used for tractors and other farm equipment used in spraying, planting, cultivation, and harvesting applications — resulting in decreased costs and increased productivity and efficiency for the farm-ing operation.

Q3 But it also involves record keeping,
right? Is that to improve decision-making on a year-to-year basis?

East: Yes, record keeping is an essential part of precision agriculture. Data is used for sound decision making and to satisfy regulatory/compliance reporting requirements. For example, you can transfer yield data, coverage maps, A/B guidance lines, and field records from in-cab displays to the farm office simply by pushing “send” on a touchscreen. Data is sent and received using a cellular data modem and the wireless data plan of your choice. There is no need to run USB flash drives or data cards from one place to another. Using integrated software, you can take your precision farming data and merge it with your accounting program to generate true profit maps and enterprise statements. Profit maps are automatically generated to show which precision farming practices are more profitable so that you can make better management decisions.

Q4 What other reasons would a farmer have for using precision agriculture products?

East: Consider the use of nitrogen on a crop. By adding a Trimble Field-IQ crop input control system and an FmX integrated display or CFX-750 display to a tractor, a farmer can gauge where he has already applied nitrogen in his field in order to eliminate over application. By adding a prescription map and Farm Works Software solutions, a farmer can vary the amount of nitrogen that he applies on his field in real-time. This adds up to less time spent in the field, a more effective use of nitrogen, and greater crop yields.

Q5 Water use is a major issue throughout the world. How does precision agriculture help farmers use water wisely?

East: Water issues throughout the world vary by geographic area. Farmers are generally searching for ways to level, irrigate, or drain their fields. Precision agriculture products can help with all of these water management processes. For instance, Trimble has recently released the WM-Drain farm drainage solution to streamline surface and sub-surface drainage processes by linking the survey, analysis, design, installation, and mapping steps in a drainage workflow. The FmX display needed to work with the WM-Drain solution may be combined with Farm Works Surface software and the Trimble Connected Farm to create a wireless loop of information between the office and the field — saving a farmer or contractor valuable time and improving crop yields by controlling ponding, optimizing root depth, maximizing planting seasons, and minimizing nutrient loss.

Q6  Where do you see precision agriculture going in the future?

East: Revolutionary innovations such as the introduction of telematics to the Trimble Connected Farm continue to take the precision ag industry into exciting new territory. Telematics allows an operator to track vehicle movement and service hours in the field from the farm office to maximize fuel efficiency and organize fleet management and maintenance schedules through real-time data transfer. While telematics may only seem applicable to very large corporate farms, the basis for this technology allows even the smallest farming operation to save time while using fewer employees. 

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
CitrusWith Big Data Comes Big Concerns For Agriculture [Opinion]
January 30, 2015
Many believe technologies like UAVs and precision ag represent the second Green Revolution, but it only will happen if farmers feel safe using them. Read More
Apples & PearsNew Bactericide Now Registered in Top Apple Growing States
January 30, 2015
KASUMIN is active on a wide array of plant pathogenic bacteria, including resistant strains. Read More
FruitsCalifornia Drought Meeting Called
January 30, 2015
State and federal officials will discuss potential actions for the coming year. Read More
GrapesRecord Crowds Flock To California Winegrape Show
January 30, 2015
Unified Wine & Grape Symposium attracts 14,000 industry professionals. Read More
Insect & Disease UpdateResearchers Develop Electronic Citrus Greening Detector
January 30, 2015
New, easy-to-use technology could help growers get a leg up on the disease. Read More
VegetablesSakata Seed Highlights Specialty Golden Beet
January 29, 2015
The company highlights specialty golden beet, Touchstone Gold. Read More
FruitsUse The Off-Season To Focus On Farm Safety
January 29, 2015
Prevention, planning, and preparedness are essential for all agritainment operations. Read More
Protected AgricultureHow To Successfully Produce Vegetables In Controlled Environments
January 28, 2015
Greenhouse expert Merle Jensen offers pointers on growing systems, pest control, plant nutrition, harvesting, and more. Read More
IPMWhat You Need To Know To Maintain An Effective IPM Program In The Greenhouse
January 28, 2015
Greenhouse expert Karin Tifft discusses the importance of scouting, pest identification, control options, and the importance of sanitation. Read More
Apples & PearsPears Get A Hefty Shout-Out From Rapper
January 28, 2015
The pome fruit is on mainstream media's radar thanks to a rapper's quote and ensuing social media blitz. Read More
The Latest
CitrusWith Big Data Comes Big Concerns For Agriculture [Opini…
January 30, 2015
Many believe technologies like UAVs and precision ag represent the second Green Revolution, but it only will happen if farmers feel safe using them. Read More
Apples & PearsNew Bactericide Now Registered in Top Apple Growing Sta…
January 30, 2015
KASUMIN is active on a wide array of plant pathogenic bacteria, including resistant strains. Read More
FruitsCalifornia Drought Meeting Called
January 30, 2015
State and federal officials will discuss potential actions for the coming year. Read More
GrapesRecord Crowds Flock To California Winegrape Show
January 30, 2015
Unified Wine & Grape Symposium attracts 14,000 industry professionals. Read More
Insect & Disease UpdateResearchers Develop Electronic Citrus Greening Detector
January 30, 2015
New, easy-to-use technology could help growers get a leg up on the disease. Read More
VegetablesSakata Seed Highlights Specialty Golden Beet
January 29, 2015
The company highlights specialty golden beet, Touchstone Gold. Read More
FruitsUse The Off-Season To Focus On Farm Safety
January 29, 2015
Prevention, planning, and preparedness are essential for all agritainment operations. Read More
Protected AgricultureHow To Successfully Produce Vegetables In Controlled En…
January 28, 2015
Greenhouse expert Merle Jensen offers pointers on growing systems, pest control, plant nutrition, harvesting, and more. Read More
IPMWhat You Need To Know To Maintain An Effective IPM Prog…
January 28, 2015
Greenhouse expert Karin Tifft discusses the importance of scouting, pest identification, control options, and the importance of sanitation. Read More
Apples & PearsPears Get A Hefty Shout-Out From Rapper
January 28, 2015
The pome fruit is on mainstream media's radar thanks to a rapper's quote and ensuing social media blitz. Read More
FruitsHighlights From The Mid-Atlantic Fruit And Vegetable Co…
January 28, 2015
Bio-control use, media literacy, and disease control were just a few of the topics discussed at the convention held in Hershey, PA. Read More
GrapesCalifornia Table Grape Growers Offer Agricultural Schol…
January 28, 2015
The application deadline for the agricultural scholarships is 5 p.m., Feb. 13. Read More
GrapesNew Wine Hybrid Establishment Cost Resource Available
January 28, 2015
Research from Cornell University breaks down the cost of producing hybrid winegrapes. Read More
FertilizerEasy Access To Fertilization Guidelines
January 28, 2015
New, easy-to-follow brochures take the guesswork out of almond and walnut fertilization. Read More
BerriesDormant Pruning Tips For Your Berries
January 28, 2015
Proper dormant pruning increases berry size and improves overall health of blackberry and raspberry plants. Read More
NutsHow Freezing Temperature Affect Bearing and New Trees
January 28, 2015
Key points before and after the critical bloom period make exposure to freezing temperatures relevant. Read More
CitrusFlorida Citrus Is Still A Big Deal [Opinion]
January 28, 2015
Even while in the grips of greening, citrus continues to be a big contributor to the Sunshine State's economy. Read More
FruitsUSDA Forecast Predicts Normal Water Supply For Parts Of…
January 27, 2015
The Southwest, Sierra Nevada region, and Pacific Northwest are starting the year drier than normal. Read More