Precision farming is a new age technology with the potential to address the challenge of food security for an increasing population globally in a sustainable manner. It exemplifies the interdependence between agronomy and technology. In India precision farming is featured as one of the research agendas in the 12th Five Year Plan.
The general agronomic practices in India follow a blanket recommendation (single input recommendation for each crop) for a large area irrespective of the variability occurring within and among the fields. Native nutrient status varies not only from field to field but also within a field both spatially and temporally. Precision management practices call for the use of global positioning sensors, remote sensing and information management tools to determine the extent of variations in different parts of the field, to quantify it and to calibrate application of fertilizers differentially taking into account this variability.
In general, precision farming describes the timely application of a field operation or input in correct doses either uniformly to the whole field or by site-specific management to account for within–field differences in soil properties, input requirements and pests.
Components of Precision Farming:
It includes Remote Sensing, Geographical Information System (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS), Soil Testing, Variable Rate Technology and Yield Monitors.
GPS is a Standard Positioning Service (SPS), developed by USA, providing navigation and positioning capability anywhere on earth, anytime, under all conditions. GIS permits numerous measurements to be made on maps to compare landscapes in space and time. Variable rate technology is used to vary fertilizer, seed, herbicide, fungicide and insecticide rates and for adjusting irrigation applications. Yield monitoring system uses a mass flow sensor for continuous measurement of the weight of the harvested crop.
Soil Fertility Management in Precision Farming:
It involves dividing a field into several small and equal divisions called grids using GPS. To implement this, a tractor fitted with a dish antenna to receive signals from satellites can be used. The signals are then recorded on a computer. Soil samples are mechanically collected from each sub-division (Grid Sampling). Samples are tested for various physicochemical parameters in a soil testing laboratory and recorded. Computer simulated color-grams are created in accordance with the test results for the entire field. It can be stored in the computer for various functions. Fertilizers can then be applied automatically at variable rates only to where they are needed as indicated by the color-grams.
Other applications of the GPS-generated grid method
Irrigation rates can be customized to the requirement of each grid area improving water use efficiency. Planting of seeds at variable rates to maximize crop yields from the specific fertility of each grid section. Helps in more precise application of herbicides and pesticides to achieve maximum control of weeds and pests. At harvest, crop yield can be recorded on a grid section basis. The farmer can achieve greater efficiency in time control of his farm operations.
Benefits of Precision Farming:
Precision technology is eco-friendly because minimizes the risk to the environment via the optimization of agrochemical products. It allows farmers to make informed economic decisions about input use. This not only reduces the cost of chemicals used, but also improves efficiency of pest control. Use of this method brings about greater uniformity of soil fertility in the field, leading to maximum economic yields of crops, which could not be achieved through other methods.
Most demanding in making precision agriculture happen is of course the challenge of bringing together diverse fields such as agronomy, plant science, genetics, soil science, entomology, meteorology, weed science, plant pathology, ecology, information technology and economics. The main hindrance in its path is going to be the lack of decision rules to convert spatial data into operating instructions.
Even though India has undertaken several projects regarding Precision Farming, cost of hi-tech machines and other infrastructure present a major constraint in its implementation. Remote sensing and GIS are yet to be used effectively in promoting precision farming. So in India, precision farming concept is slightly deviated from its original form.
Jain S. K., Dashora. L. K., Chundawat. B. S. (2013). Precision Farming in Horticulture. New India Publishing Agency. Robert Grisso, Mark Alley, Gordon Groover (2009). Precision Farming Tools: GPS Navigation. Virginia Cooperative Extension. S. Liaghat and S.K. Balasundram (2010). A Review: The Role of Remote Sensing in Precision Agriculture. American Journal of Agricultural and Biological Sciences 5 (1): 50-55. www.esri.com/industries/agriculture/business/precision-farming iasri.res.in/ebook/EBADAT/6.../14-Precision%20Farming%20Lecture.pdf