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ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #358885

Research Project: Precipitation and Irrigation Management to Optimize Profits from Crop Production

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Title: The role of precision agriculture in achieving sustainability

item Evett, Steven - Steve

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/15/2018
Publication Date: 10/9/2018
Citation: Evett, S.R. 2018. The role of precision agriculture in achieving sustainability [abstract]. Sustainable High Value Crop Production Workshop, October 8-10, 2018, Dead Sea, Jordan.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The three goals of sustainable agriculture are environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. Because these goals are interdependent, a systems perspective is key to understanding and implementing sustainability. Achieving sustainability is a transitional process within a sustainable agriculture continuum – a system. Realistically, a series of small steps is needed because wholesale change is too disruptive, but each small decision makes a difference and contributes to advancing the entire system. This reduces the pressure for rapid change that farmers may feel. In Jordan, farmers have already taken important steps that are aiding sustainability and water security. Nearly all irrigation is already by drip irrigation systems, a major step towards sustainability. Many farms have small, lined storage tanks that improve the ability to irrigate when and as needed. And the use of plastic houses, called high hoops in the US, and shade houses is common and reduces crop water use greatly while increasing crop yield and quality. Still irrigation control is often still manual, and conversion to timed zone control could improve some outcomes. More drip irrigation zones could enable more precise response to crop need. And measurement systems often are unreliable, take too much time or are not available. This means that farmers have a tendency to apply too much – fertilizers, pesticides, etc. – while conversely running the risk of applying too little for optimum crop water and nutrient use efficiency. Crop diversification and the cultivation of high value crops are two steps that farmers are beginning to take to achieve sustainable profits while reducing demands on water resources. But, successful adoption requires a systems approach, which requires training and third party support. The upside is that conversion to high value crops increases revenue which can balance the purchase of lower value grains. Because production of the grains often occurs in countries with adequate water supplies and uses considerable water, this amounts to a net importation of virtual water that can aid the achievement of sustainable agriculture production. In sum, key components of the nexus of Water Security, Precision Agriculture & Sustainability include high value crops, virtual water trades, precision irrigation practice and local manufacturing to support it, and farmer profit and reinvestment in precision irrigation and agriculture practices.