Submitted to: Precision Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/25/2001
Publication Date: 12/1/2002
Citation: KITCHEN, N.R., SNYDER, C.J., FRANZEN, D.W., WIEBOLD, W.J. EDUCATIONAL NEEDS OF PRECISION AGRICULTURE. PRECISION AGRICULTURE. 2002. V. 3. P. 341-351.
Interpretive Summary: Farmers are looking for better ways to improve their crop and soil management practices to increase profits and improve the environment. Use of information-based technologies for making on-the-go changes in management inputs like fertilizer (often called precision agriculture) can help achieve these results, but equipment and computer costs and the knowledge and skills required to effectively use them discourage many farmers. Additionally, some of the technologies and information delivery/exchange mechanisms are advancing so rapidly that educators of precision agriculture are challenged keeping pace and providing quality educational material. Precision agriculture education programs need to reflect these dynamics of change, but they should also be scientifically sound and responsive to the wide range of abilities and skills of individuals. To illuminate how precision agriculture educational programs can be improved and expanded, three questions were addressed. 1) What barriers to the adoption of precision agriculture are the result of inadequate or ineffective educational efforts? 2) Is there a natural learning process for precision agriculture technologies and methods? And if so, what is it? And 3) what are the unique needs of different precision agriculture participants (e.g., farmers, agri-business, and educators)? Optimization of the learning process associated with precision agriculture requires that all participants improve their knowledge and skill levels in agronomy, computers, and data and information management. University educators and crop consultants will be the main beneficiaries of this research by helping them better understand farmer problems and how to over- come them by improving the quality of educational materials and training.
Technical Abstract: Farmer reluctance to implement precision agricultural practices is associated primarily with the lack of well-trained extension/education personnel and the costs associated with developing a strong educational delivery program. Given that precision agriculture technology is rapidly advancing along with increased reliance on internet based information delivery and exchange, educators in precision agriculture face the unique challenge of keeping pace with technological advances in two fields. Objectives of this study were to identify barriers to precision agriculture adoption and to identify ways to improve precision agriculture educational programs. Barriers to farmer adoption included: time required to learn how to use complicated equipment/software, lack of knowledge and skills to use basic electronic equipment, lack of easy-access troubleshooting help, and difficulty in storing, retrieving, and analyzing electronic data. The learning process associated with precision agriculture technologies and methods was described as a series of sequential steps which agricultural educators can use to build and target their programs. The optimal value of information for precision agriculture will be best achieved by producers, agribusinesses, and educators as they improve their 1) agronomic knowledge and skills; 2) computer and information management skills; and 3) understanding of precision agriculture as a system for increasing knowledge.