Submitted to: Precision Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/12/2002
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Agricultural producers have slowly been adopting management that uses new technologies for doing on-the-go changes in management inputs (often called site-specific management or precision farming); but the uncertainty of what to do, as well as how much return on investment will be realized, has hindered many producers from making changes. Answers to these issues are complex and require the attention of researchers from many different disciplines. The primary finding of this work was that precision agriculture is dependent upon good information (i.e., creating accurate maps) and that sufficient information is usually too expensive when relying on traditional tools (e.g., soil sampling). We have come to realize good precision agriculture information is expensive and is only possible with joint participation of economists, engineers, soil scientists, entomologists, agronomists, etc. We have concluded that sufficient information requires many measurements, generally only obtainable when using automated sensors. Much of our work in corn and soybean crops is now centered on the use of land-, air-, and space-based sensors. Examples include aerial images, soil electrical conductivity surveys, and landscape characterization (e.g., slope). The results of this study will benefit researchers as they develop precision agricultural research projects. In the end, farmers and crop consultants will benefit by having tools that integrate the expertise of many different sciences to help solve the challenges faced in developing improved site-specific management that is more profitable and environmentally friendly.
Technical Abstract: Precision agriculture may offer great promise for the future, but extensive research is required if that promise is to be realized. The research will not be easy, for few, if any, individuals have sufficiently broad training in the many disciplines (e.g., economics, engineering, crop and soil sciences, pest management) required to design the experiments, interpret the data, and ultimately provide answers for the practical economically oriented farm management questions being asked. We are convinced that many experiments would benefit, as we did, from collaborative research conducted by multi-disciplinary teams. From our research we learned much about the nature of precision agriculture, but we also learned about the nature of research and the value of expertise outside our own areas. In the case of the former, we learned that precision agriculture is very dependent upon, and perhaps even defined by, engineering technology; but the profitable utilization of the technology is dependent upon a thorough understanding o the physical and biological factors of the field and crop. It appears that much of the technology is only profitable when a producer possesses very detailed field characteristic information. Unfortunately, the level of information required may be impossible to obtain by many of the proposed users of precision agriculture technology. In the case of the latter, we learned an appreciation for the skills and expertise of those from other disciplines. We believe that multi-disciplinary teams are a necessity for this work, and we recommend that the existing research community recognize this need and provide rewards for participation in interdisciplinary research.