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Precision Farming- A concept for Smart Agriculture

Precision agriculture (PA) is an approach of smart farm management that uses information technology to ensure that the crops and soil receive exactly what they need for optimum health and productivity. The goal of PA is to ensure profitability, and protection of the environment. PA is also known as agriculture, as-needed farming and site-specific crop management. Precision tools under precision farming provides a new solution using a systems approach for todays agricultural issues such as the need to balance productivity with environmental concerns. Precision agriculture and its suite of information technologies such as soil and yield mapping using a global positioning system (GPS), GPS tractor guidance systems, and variable-rate input application—allow farmers with guidance about crop rotation, optimal planting times, harvesting times and soil management. In the past, precision agriculture was limited to larger operations which could support the IT Today, however, smart sensors, drones and cloud computing makes precision agriculture possible for farming and even small family farms.

Why Precision Farming?

·         For doing the right thing in the right place at the right time

·         For enhancing productivity

·         Prevents soil degradation

·         Reduction of chemical use in crop production

·         Efficient use of water resources

·         A smart farming tool for improving quality, quantity & reduced cost of input

Components of precision agriculture

Data base required-

For assessing spatial and temporal variability in the fields following databases are important to develop the potential of precision farming.

·         Soil: Physical Condition, Soil texture, Structure, Soil moisture, Soil nutrients, etc.

·         Crop: Plant population, Crop tissue nutrient status, Crop stress, Weed flora and intensity, Insect pest and their species and intensity, Crop yield, Harvest swath width etc.

·         Climate: Rainfall, temperature, humidity, solar radiation, wind velocity, etc.

II. Technology

Technologies include a vast array of tools of hardware, software and equipments.

1.       Global Positioning System (GPS) -GPS is a navigation system based on a network of satellites that helps users to record positional information (latitude, longitude and elevation) which allows farmers to reliably identify field locations so that inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and irrigation water) can be applied to an individual field, based on performance criteria and previous input applications.

2.       Geographic information systems (GIS): This system comprises hardware, software that use feature attributes and location data to produce maps.

·         Application of GIS technique:

·         An important function of an agricultural GIS is to store layers of information, such as yields, soil survey maps, remotely sensed data, crop scouting reports and soil nutrient

·         Cadastral, topographic and thematic mapping.

·         Surveying.

·         Remote sensing, image processing and photogrammetry.

·         Earth sciences and geographical application.

·         Assist in decision makers to select alternatives resources.

·         Environmental pollution and natural hazards management.

·         Planning for urban area management, transportation, architecture, conservation and landscaping.

·         To locate wild life habitat and migrational study.

3.       Remote sensing: Remote sensing is the science (and to some extent, art) of acquiring information about the Earths surface without actually being in contact with it. This is done by sensing and recording reflected or emitted energy and processing, analyzing, and applying that information.

Remote sensing has several unique advantages (Jensen, 1996):

·         RS technology is well-known as a nondestructive method to collect information about earth features

·         RS data may be obtained systematically over very large geographical areas rather than just single point observations

·         RS data can reveal information about places that are inaccessible to human exploration

·         The systematic (raster) data collection in RS can remove sampling bias

·         RS can provide fundamental biophysical information that can be used in other sciences

·         RS is independent from the data produced elsewhere, in comparison with the other mapping sciences such as cartography or GIS

4.       Variable Rate Applicator: ability to adapt parameters on a machine to apply, for instance, seed or fertilizer according to the exact variations in plant growth, or soil nutrients and type.

The variable rate applicator has three components:

·         Control computer

·         Locator and

·         Actuator

The application map is loaded into a computer mounted on a variable-rate applicator. The computer uses the application map and a GPS receiver to direct a product-delivery controller that changes the amount and/or kind of product, according to the application map.

III. Management

·         Information management: A farmer must have clear idea of objectives of precision farming and crucial information necessary to make decisions effectively.

·         Decision support system (DSS): The main aim of the work is to develop a system that can provide information about the expected yield in each season with better accuracy. For this purpose, DSS can be developed, utilizing GIS, agronomic, economic and environmental software, to help farmers manage their fields.

·         Identifying a precision agriculture service provider to decrease the cost and increase the efficiency of precision agriculture, farmers are advised to take services of agricultural service providers.

Steps in precision farming

1.       Identification and assessment of variability

a.       Grid soil sampling: Grid soil sampling is efficient method to increase the intensity of sampling compared to the traditional sampling.

b.      Crop scouting: In-season observations of crop conditions like weeds (weed type and intensity); insect or fungal infestation (species and intensity); crop tissue nutrient status; also can be helpful later when explaining variations in yield maps.

c.       Use of precision technologies for assessing variability: Faster and in real time assessment of variability is possible only through advanced tools of precision agriculture.

2.       Management of variability

a.       Variable rate application: According to variability (e.g. Soil nutrients status) maps are made and loaded into a computer mounted on a variable-rate input applicator.

b.      Yield monitoring and mapping: Yield measurements are essential for making sound management decisions about managed inputs.

c.       Quantifying on farm variability: should be done by using one or two of the tools at a time and carefully evaluating the results and then proceeding further.

3.       Evaluation of precision farming

a.       Economic analysis: Whether it is cost effective?

b.      Environmental assessment: Does it improve the quality of environment or at least not harm?

c.       Rate of ToT (Transfer of Technology): Do farmers adopt it rapidly?

Benefits of precision farming

·         The concept of doing the right thing in the right place at the right time has a strong intuitive appeal which gives farmers the ability to use all operations and crop inputs more effectively.

·         More effective use of inputs results in greater crop yield and/or quality, without polluting the environment.

·         Precision agriculture can address both economic and environmental issues that surround production agriculture today.

Drawbacks of precision farming

·         High cost

·         Lack of technical expertise knowledge and technology

·         Not applicable or difficult/costly for small land holdings

·         Heterogeneity of cropping systems and market imperfections


Jensen, J. R., (1996). Remote sensing of the environment: An Earth Resource Perspective. 3th

Edn., Prentice Hall, USA, pp: 1-28.

Dass. A., Suri, V. K., Choudhary. A. K. 2014. Research Site-Specific Nutrient Management Approaches for Enhanced Nutrient-Use Efficiency in Agricultural Crops & Reviews: Journal of Crop Science and Technology. 3(3) 1-6.

Mandal. S. K and Maity. A. 2013. Precision Farming for Small Agricultural Farm: Indian Scenario. American Journal of Experimental Agriculture 3(1): 200-217

Writer :: Shalini, Brijbhooshan and Vijay Kumar Didal      Published on :: 20-Nov-2019

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