Saturday, December 24, 2011

Precision Agriculture With GIS - A New Approach To Farming

Precision farming offers farmers a new set of tools to help them visualize and manage their land, and to better understand their soil conditions. Precision farming uses GIS, which stands for Geographical Information Systems, to divide a field into small portions in order to look at the field in greater detail. Think of it as a magnifying glass for a field that allows you to fine tune farming practices which results in better crop yields and reduced waste and spending.

This information can be used to reduce fertilizer waste by providing precise information on what kind of nutrients are already in the soil, and what the ph of the soil area is.

This is accomplished by dividing the farm into small units, then analyzing the soil. If the soil is too alkaline or acidic in one area, it can lock the nutrients preventing the crops from absorbing them. With precision farming these areas can be treated to give the entire field a uniform ph level allowing for better crop management.

Farmers can also see what kind of nutrients are in the soil so that they don't waste money buying fertilizers that might already be in the soil. One area of a field may have a lot of nutrients, while another area may have very little. Precision farming will let you apply more precise amounts of fertilizer to your field reducing waste and increasing crop yields.

Water management is another area that farmers can benefit from because precision farming can show the areas where the water is draining to fast or slow. If the water flows to fast, it can take nutrients with it, if it flows to slow it could drown the roots reducing crop yield.

Here is a list of GIS map layers that can be used to help farmers determine their fields needs.

SOILMAPS: This is one of the most important maps available to a farmer for obvious reasons. This map shows you what kind of soil the field consists of, what the ph is, what nutrients are in the soil, and how well the soil drains.

DEMS: Short for Digital Elevation Models, this map is useful in showing where water flows, and how well it flows. This information can reveal areas that fertilizer and pesticide build up can be a problem. It can also show the farmer the areas that might be draining to fast removing needed fertilizers.

HYDROGRAPHY: This type of map deals with water issues. By revealing the flow and drain patterns of water, the farmer can better determine irrigation issues that might not be readily known by just looking at the field with the naked eye. This allows for more precise control of water resources resulting in reduced water usage.

Even though precision farming is still a fairly new field of research, it has a lot of exciting possibilities that the agriculture industry can greatly benefit from. A lot of farmers have already started using this technology and are experiencing positive results from the information GIS provides.

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