Precision Farming Tools – Guide For Beginners

Precision Farming Tools – Guide For Beginners

Introduction to Precision Farming Tools: Precision agriculture (PA) or Precision farming is a crop and livestock production management system that uses a global positioning system (GPS) to monitor equipment field position to collect information and apply inputs as required at each location. Precision farming is also called satellite crop management or site-specific crop management. This is mainly used to develop a decision support system for complete farm management to optimize the inputs and outputs of the different systems at regular intervals. Precision farming is comprised of near and remote sensing methods using IoT sensors, which help to monitor crop states at multiple growth levels. Precision agriculture involves the acquisition and processing of a large amount of data related to crop health. Multiple parameters are involved in a plant’s health, and also including water level, temperature, and others. In this article we also covered the below topics about precision farming tools;

  • Tools required for precision farming
  • What is Precision Agriculture
  • The techniques of precision farming
  • How Does Precision Farming Work
  • Basic Technologies Used In Precision Farming

A Step-by-Step Guide to Precision Farming Tools

Drone Guided Farming

Precision agriculture enables a farmer to know precisely what parameters are needed for a healthy crop, where these parameters are needed, and in what amount at a particular instance of time. This needs collecting massive information from different sources and different parts of the field such as soil nutrients, the presence of pests and weeds, chlorophyll content in plants, and weather conditions. The main goal of Precision agriculture outlines its benefits. The main approach defines the crops and soil requirements for optimum productivity on the one hand and to preserve resources, ensures environmental sustainability and protection on the other. This process into regular farming helps to solve the vital problems in agriculture like resource-wasting, high costs, and destructive environmental impact.

The need for precision agriculture is;

Precision agriculture merges the new methods borne of the information age with a mature agricultural industry. Then, it is an integrated crop management system that attempts to match the kind and amount of inputs with the actual crop needs for small areas within a farm field. Environmental characteristics include weather conditions, weeds, insects, and disease.

Precision farming is a farming management system based on using modern methods at every stage of work. A field usually has heterogeneous zones. Precision farming makes it possible to identify these zones and manage the variability that comes with a heterogeneous field. This mainly allows farmers to use seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides more efficiently and increase yield.

Objectives of Precision Agriculture

The main objectives of precision agriculture have expanded as well;

  • By selecting suitable crops with higher yields and more lucrative markets
  • Automatically measure the performance of the site by capturing relevant data
  • Increasing the farm’s economic and also environmental sustainability
  • Predicting climate condition changes and reacting to them proactively

Precision farming is an approach where inputs are utilized in precise amounts to get increased average yields compared to traditional cultivation methods. Therefore, it is a comprehensive system designed to optimize production by using a key element of information, technology, and management, to increase production efficiency, improve product quality, conserve energy and protect the environment. So, precision farming is an appealing concept and its principles quite naturally lead to the expectation that farming inputs can be used more effectively, with subsequent improvements in profits and environmentally less burdensome production.

Precision farming is an approach to farm management that uses IT (information technology) to ensure that crops and soil receive exactly what they need for optimum health. The goal of precision farming is to ensure profitability, sustainability, and protection of the environment. Precision farming is also known as satellite agriculture and site-specific crop management (SSCM). It helps in avoiding unwanted practices to a crop, regardless of local soil/climate conditions, which means it reduces labor, water, inputs such as fertilizers, and pesticides, etc., and assures quality produce.

Precision farming means performing any agricultural management practice based on the status of the piece of land. PA creates the image of some computerized programs which control the machinery via satellite signals or some local sensor setups which can predict crop development. That is why precision farming is considered the future of agriculture. It means a series of strategies and tools that allow farmers to optimize and increase soil quality and productivity putting in place a series of targeted key interventions, a result that can be accomplished through the introduction of advanced technologies.

Advantages of Precision Farming

The precision farming system offers many economic, social, and environmental advantages over traditional methods;

  • Increases Return-On-Investment (ROI), by reducing inputs use and increasing yield amounts and quality.
  • It reduces soil, water, and air pollution by decreasing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Precision farming builds up soil biodiversity and supports wildlife outside farms.
  • It makes farming sustainable by reducing reliance on resources and water.
  • Precision farming reduces carbon emissions from the agriculture sector.

Other Advantages of Precision Farming are;

Improved decision-making efficiency – If farmers use sensors to monitor the field, they will be getting long-term access to real-time data. This way, a site manager will be able to distinguish patterns and predict changes, potential risks, and crop yields, both through harvest and the growing season.

Access to farm records – Using technology for farm management systems increases data accessibility. With precision farming, the team members are no longer bound to the office space. Thanks to cloud-based methods, all the necessary data is free for access at any time from any device.

Better crop protection – To protect the location from crop-damaging insects and farmers tend to go overboard with their nitrogen usage. And, apart from reducing the environmental sustainability of the site, using chemicals is expensive. With precision farming, a farmer will be able to administer chemicals only when needed and then protect crops more efficiently.

Why is Precision Farming Important?

Precision farming practices can reduce the nutrient amount and other crop inputs used while boosting crop yields. Thus, farmers obtain a return on their investment by saving on water, pesticide, and fertilizer costs.

  • To increase agriculture productivity
  • Prevents soil degradation
  • Reduction of chemical application in crops
  • Efficient use of water resources
  • Dissemination of modern farm methods to improve the quality, quantity, and reduced cost of production
  • Developing favorable attitudes
  • Precision farming practices changing the socio-economic status of farmers

Production issues can easily be addressed through precision farming if it is taken care of properly. Farmers need to find their specific needs beforehand so that identification of ideal tools to suit their needs will follow. These precision farming tools are essential in creating efficiency, more accurate records, and ease farm management. Therefore find your needs before spending any coin on software and gadgets is important.

After determining the agriculture needs, you can now choose the tools that you want to incorporate to solve your needs. Precision farming tools, software packages, and guidance systems vary in price and quality. Also, farmers should make sure that they understand what it will take to put new precision tools to work and what is expected of them when using them to achieve greater success in farming. Farmers must be aware of their particular tools that can be used for different types of crops; or if it will be used only for a section of the farm or will it be the entire piece of land; and which of farm’s staff will be handling and by using the precision farming tools or if there is need for any specialized training will be necessary. This kind of implementation plan has a significant impact on the tools you select to meet specific needs. Having a plan for implementation on time will help farmers to enjoy maximum success with the precision farming tools.

Components of Precision Farming

  • Crop Characteristics – Stage of the crop, crop health, and nutrient requirements, etc.
  • Detailed soil layer with physical and chemical properties, nutrient status, salinity and toxicity, and soil temperature, etc.
  • Micro-climate data (seasonal and daily) about crop canopy temperature, wind direction, and humidity, etc.
  • Surface and sub-surface drainage conditions
  • Irrigation facilities and other planning inputs of interest
  • Farm machinery and other equipment with sensors

Tools of Precision Farming

It is important for anyone considering precision agriculture to be familiar with the technological tools available. Computer-based applications mainly used to create precise farm plans, field maps, crop scouting, yield maps and to define the exact amount of inputs to be applied to fields. Among the advantages of this process is the possibility to create an environmentally friendly farming plan, which in its turn helps to reduce the cost and increase yields. On the other side, these applications provide narrow value data that cannot be applied for big precision farming solutions due to the inability to integrate the obtained data into other supporting systems.

The main tools used for precision farming are;

  1. Auto-guidance equipment
  2. Variable-Rate Technology
  3. Internet of Things
  4. Proximate Sensors Technology
  5. Global Positioning System and Geographical Information System
  6. Grid sampling
  7. Remote sensors
  8. Proximate Sensors
  9. Precision Irrigation Systems
  10. Records and analyses
  11. Yield monitoring and mapping
  12. Auto-Guidance Equipment

This type of method allows farmers to cover a vast field accurately and faster. It mainly eliminates overlaps, skips, and gaps from any product that farmers apply. As a result, fertilizer, insecticides, pesticides, and crop protection products are only applied at the right amount and place that are in need. Auto-guidance tools also minimize accidents usually that is caused by these machines.

  1. Variable-Rate Technology

Variable-rate technology (VRT) fertilizer, insecticide, water, and pesticides applications can be beneficial in fighting pests and diseases. Variable-rate technology applications of potassium (K) and phosphorus (P) can be beneficial, depending on the fertility of the field. Management zones must be developed rather than relying on grid soil samples alone.

Variable-rate technology (VRT) is any technology or method allowing farmers to control the number of inputs applicable within defined farming areas. This method uses specialized software, controllers, and differential global positioning system (DGPS).

VRT mainly refers to any technology that enables the variable application of inputs and allows farmers to control the number of inputs they apply in a specific location. The basic components of this VRT technology include a computer, software, a controller, and a differential global positioning system (DGPS). There are three basic approaches to using the VRT method is map-based, sensor-based, and manual.

Variable-rate fertilizer application mainly allows crop producers to apply different rates of fertilizer at each location across fields. The technology required to accomplish variable rate fertilization includes an in-cab computer and software with a field zone application map, fertilizer equipment capable of changing rates during operation, and the Global Positioning System (GPS).

  1. Internet of Things

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is helping to change the way that farmers work through precision farming, a farm management concept that uses sensors, data, and network communication to tailor the farming system. Then, the result is a more efficient system that promotes sustainable growth while cutting costs.

IoT farming solutions for precision farming allow for real-time monitoring to collect valuable data that can have a significant impact on operational efficiency. IoT has a range of diverse applications for farming systems;

  • Monitor and analyze soil conditions and changing parameters to optimize crop yields.
  • Develop tracking solutions that allow farmers to monitor livestock and other farming resources in remote areas.
  • Carefully use connected devices to detect water and nutrient deficits for timely interventions.
  1. Proximate Sensors Technology

There are different types of sensors. Moisture and temperature sensors are some of the important sensors. These sensors can help the farmer to detect any type of problem experienced by the crops, or stress that livestock might be undergoing. Then, it helps the farmer fix the problems easily with fewer resources.

  1. Global Positioning System and Geographical Information System

Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers

Global Positioning System is a set of 24 satellites in the Earth’s orbit. Then, it sends out radio signals that can be processed by a ground receiver to find the geographic position on earth. It has a 95% probability that the given position on the earth will be within 10 to 15 meters of the actual position.

GPS is a satellite that identifies the location of field equipment that is within a meter of the actual site in the farm. Then, the importance of knowing a precision location within few inches is;

  • The laboratory results and soil location samples can easily be compared to a soil map.
  • Pesticides can be prescribed to fit specific soil properties.
  • Tillage can be adjusted because one condition changes across the field.
  • It can easily monitor and record yield data as one goes across the field.

The GPS provides an accurate positioning system necessary for field implementation of variable rate technology. The present internet makes possible the development of a mechanism for effective farm management by using remote sensing.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Geographic Information Systemsare computer hardware and software systems that use feature attributes and location data to produce maps. Geographically referenced data can be displayed in the GIS system, adding a visual perspective for interpretation.

GIS system consists of software that inputs, retrieves, stores, displays, and analyses referenced geographical information in the map-like form. This technology comprises hardware, software, and procedures designed to support the compilation, storage, retrieval, and analysis of feature attributes and location data to produce maps.  This system links information in one place so that it can be extrapolated when needed. Though, the GIS database can provide information on field topography, soil types, soil testing, irrigation, chemical application rates, and crop yield.

GIS improves agricultural operations and overall productivity. By using computer-equipped seeders and sprinklers don’t pass the same line twice which means they avoid overlaps and missed areas. Then, this innovation reduces the consumption of materials and protects nature in the case of chemical applications, not to mention that excessive fertilizing and watering destroy the crops.

  1. Grid sampling

Grid sampling is a type of process that involves breaking a field into different smaller blocks of say 0.5-5 ha. Then the soil is sampled within these grids to precise and proper application rates. Then, the samples are then taken, mixed, and sent to soil laboratories for testing and analysis. Grid sampling mainly reveals how the nutrients are distributed across a field. This prevents the over-application of fertilizer in areas where nutrient levels are high. The grid sampling method allows for soil enrichment with fertilizer in areas where nutrient levels are low. Soil sampling helps producers develop management zones and prescription maps in precision farming, increasing the accuracy of rate and placement of necessary inputs like fertilizers and lime to adjust pH levels. Producers and managers normally use Grid or Zone Sampling strategies when collecting soil samples.

  1. Remote sensors

Remote sensors are categorized as;

These remote sensors mainly indicate variations in the field color which corresponds to changes in soil structure and type, crop growth, animal condition, and field boundaries. Usually, remote-sensed data provide a tool for evaluating crop health. Also, electronic cameras can record near-infrared images that are highly correlated with healthy plant tissue. New remote sensors with the high spectral resolution are increasing the information collected from satellites. Though, remotely-sensed images can help determine the location and extent of crop stress. Analysis of such images used in tandem with scouting can help to find the cause of certain components of crop stress. The remote-sensed images can then be used to develop and implement a spot treatment plan that optimizes the use of agricultural chemicals. The method determines factors that can stress a crop at a specific time to find the amount of soil moisture.

Remote sensors are categories of aerial or satellite sensors. They can indicate variations in the colors of the field that corresponds to changes in soil type, crop development, field boundaries, roads, and water, etc. Arial and satellite imagery can be processed to provide vegetative indices, which reflect plant health. Remote science in agricultural terms means viewing crops from overhead (from a satellite or low flying aircraft) without coming into contact, and recording what is viewed and displaying the image, and then provide the map to pinpoint the field problems more effectively. In a remote sensing system, information transfer is accomplished by the use of electromagnetic radiation (EMR). Due to remote sensing, we have been able to observe large regions suitable for agriculture and making use of sensors to measure energy at wavelengths that are beyond the range of human vision (ultraviolet infrared, etc.). The remote sensing method can be used to provide valuable information on various agricultural resources which influence production. Some of the major broad agricultural application areas are;

Crop production forecasting – It mainly includes the identification of crops, acreage estimation, and yield forecasting.

Soil mapping – Soil maps afford the information on the suitability and soil limitation for agricultural production, which are helpful in the selection of proper cropping systems and optimal land use planning.

Wasteland mapping – Wasteland means salt-affected areas, acidic soils, eroded soils, waterlogged areas, and dryland, etc.

Water stress –SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) sensors are sensitive to soil moisture. It requires extensive use of processing to remove surface-induced noise.

Insect detection – Aerial or satellite remote sensing system has not been successfully used to identify and locate insects directly. Indirect detection of insects through plant detection stress has generally been used in annual crops. Usually, the economic injury level for treatment is exceeded by the time plant stress is detected by remote sensing entomologists prefer to do direct in-field scouting to detect insects in time.

  1. Proximate Sensors

These sensors can be used to measure soil parameters such as nitrogen status and soil pH level and crop properties as the sensor attached tractor passes over the field.

  1. Precision Irrigation Systems

Irrigation System 

The precision Irrigation system is one innovative method that uses water wisely and helps farmers achieve higher crop yields in a minimal amount of water. Sensor and wireless communication technologies are developed to monitor soil and ambient conditions, along with operating parameters of the irrigation machines (i.e. flow and pressure) to attain higher water use efficiency.

  1. Records and analyses

Usually, electronic sensors can collect a lot of data in a short period. Also, electronic controllers can be designed to provide signals that are recorded electronically. It may be helpful to record the fertilizer rates actually put down by the application equipment, not just what should have been put down according to a prescription map. Though, farmers will want to keep track of the yearly data to study trends in fertility, yields, salinity, and other parameters. That means a large database is needed with the capability to archive, and retrieve, data for future analyses.

Several benefits are achieved from an automated process of capturing, storing, and analyzing physical field records. Detailed analyses of the farm management activities and results can be carried out. Farmers can look at the performance of new varieties by site-specific region, measure the effect of different seeding depths, and show to their banker the actual yields obtained and the associated risk levels.

  1. Yield Monitoring and Mapping

Yield monitors are a combination of several components. Typically they include several different sensors and components like a data storage device that controls the interaction of these components. The sensors measure the mass, separator speed, ground speed, and grain. Global Positioning System receivers are mainly used to record the location of yield data. Though, soil, landscape, and other environmental factors should also be weighed when interpreting a yield map. Used properly, yield information provides important feedback in determining the effects of managed inputs like fertilizer, lime, seed, pesticides, and cultural practices including tillage and irrigation. By examining yield information records from several years and including data from extreme weather years helps in determining if the observed yield level.

Yield maps are produced by processing data from an adopted combine harvester that is equipped with a GPS that is integrated with a yield recording system. Usually, yield mapping involves the recording of the grain flow through the combine harvester, while recording the actual in the field at the same time.

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