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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Schneider, Sally
item Han, S
item Boydston, R
item Davenport, J
item Evans, R
item Hattendorf, M

Submitted to: Western Plant Growth Regulator Society Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/1/2001
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Although different sections of an agricultural field vary with respect to their kind of soil, fertilizer needs, amount of weeds or insects, or water needs, growers traditionally have managed their fields as if they were uniform. The same amount of fertilizer is usually put over the entire field even though the areas that had the greatest growth last season probably have little fertilizer left over, but areas of poor growth might still have plenty of fertilizer. This can result in unnecessary expense, and potential environmental problems, if fertilizer is added where it isn't needed and poor crop growth in areas that don't receive enough fertilizer. Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) systems and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are relatively new technologies that make it possible for farmers to manage different sections of their fields according to the actual conditions in each section. This has been called Precision Agricultural or Site-specific Management. Maps can be drawn that show the differences in crop yield, soil chemistry, amount of fertilizer remaining in the soil, and population levels of pests. Based on these maps, growers can make management decisions to generate a treatment map. Equipment guided by GPS can then be used to deliver treatments in the right amount to each section of the field. To fully utilize the equipment already available, additional biological research must be conducted to better understand the important interactions between crops, spatially varying soil conditions and pest outbreaks, economic factors, and environmental concerns. This new knowledge can than be used to generate better treatment maps based on the actual needs in section of a field, rather than treating an entire field as if it was uniform.

Technical Abstract: Precision Agriculture, also known as Site-Specific Management, can be defined as the GATHERING of on-farm information pertaining to the variation and interaction of site-specific spatial and temporal factors affecting crop production and USING that information to prescribe and deliver site-specific application of agricultural management practices and inputs in agriculture production systems to maximize productive efficiency while minimizing negative environmental impacts. The availability of Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) systems and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for agricultural production practices makes site-specific crop management possible. Maps of crop yield and quality, soil characteristics (texture, pH, nutrient status, etc.), topography, and pest population levels can be developed and used to make management decisions. Fertilizer, irrigation water, and pesticides can be applied site-specifically. Economic thresholds based on whole field management must be re-evaluated in light of site-specific control strategies. Management zones are identified based on economic thresholds, equipment constraints, and relevant site-specific data. Site-specific application and monitoring equipment is available. Additional biological research is needed to develop site-specific management plans based on a thorough understanding of the interactions of the physical, chemical, biological, economic, and environmental components of the agricultural production system. Only then can the capabilities of site-specific technologies be fully realized.

Last Modified: 10/17/2017
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