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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Columbia, Missouri » Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #211892


item Kitchen, Newell

Submitted to: Crop Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/29/2007
Publication Date: 10/15/2007
Citation: Bullock, D.S., Kitchen, N.R., Bullock, D.G. 2007. Multi-disciplinary teams - a necessity for research in precision agriculture systems. Crop Science. 47:1765-1769.

Interpretive Summary: Over the last 15 years agricultural producers have slowly been adopting computers, sensors, and controllers for collecting in-field information then using that information to guide on-the-go changes in management practices and inputs (often called site-specific management or precision farming). Yet, the uncertainty of what management practices should be employed, as well as what return on investment will be realized, has hindered many producers from adopting precision farming methods. In this report we reflect on our research experiences and assess the value of different types of precision agriculture information. We conclude that precision agriculture depends on good information (i.e., accurate maps) and that sufficient information is usually too expensive when relying on traditional tools (e.g., soil sampling). We encourage development and application of automated sensors to meet this need. We also conclude that the best understanding of precision agriculture information comes from joint participation/interpretation by economists, engineers, soil scientists, entomologists, agronomists, etc,. In the end, farmers and crop consultants will benefit by having tools that have integrated the expertise of many different sciences to help them solve the challenges they face in developing profitable and environmentally friendly site-specific management.

Technical Abstract: Precision agriculture may offer great promise for the future, but extensive additional 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. Growing out of this collaboration, we learned much about the nature of precision agriculture, but we also learned about the nature of research and the value of expertise outside of 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 of 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 for many of the proposed uses of precision agriculture technology. In the case of the later, we developed 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 such and provide rewards for participation in interdisciplinary research.