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Precision Agriculture: What is it?
What I have come to understand is there is no single answer to the question.
If we look at the title of the article, all of you will come to an answer. These answers will vary depending on who you are, what you do, why you do it, where you do it, and when you do it. What I have come to understand is there is no single answer to the question. It all hangs on the previously mentioned W’s.
Precision agriculture has become such a broad statement that I try to steer clear from using it. The potato farmer that has five RTK base stations with planters utilizing implement steer is precise. The dryland wheat farmer, 20 miles to his north running rate and section control, with a WAAS system is also being precise. These two operations are vastly different using varying levels of precision, but I consider both to be practicing precision agriculture.
Using one of the W’s, what does that mean? Simply put, there are many levels of precision. When you dive down the hardware side of the precision rabbit hole it can be overwhelming. Let’s now add all the data that can be collected and derived ("Alice take small sips from that bottle and small bites from that cookie"). Yes, I have a newborn at home and fairytale reading is a nightly occurrence.
Part of what makes this topic overwhelming is how fast the technology came and how it continues to change. This new technology we have taken and stamped it as precision, when almost a 100 years ago the first tractors were considered “precision agriculture”. Precision is still defined as “the quality, condition, or fact of being exact and accurate” and I do not believe that it has changed in the last 100 years. The past 25 years has seen dramatic changes to the timeless practice of farming, but all that technology is just adding layers of precision to your operation. Some of which you may need and more that you will not.
Ask yourself the five W’s. Your answers will help shape and build the layers of precision you need. Share your answers with your Precision Specialist out in the field and do research into what may fit your operation. In some cases, you may have had too much cookie and need to take a small sip from the bottle, or cut back on their layers. One thing is for sure though, precision agriculture has always been on farms and will continue to add layers into the foreseeable future.