Precision Agriculture Technology

Precision technologies for guidance (light-bar or auto-pilot system), auto-swath control, variable-rate technology and implement guidance for seed, pesticide, and fertilizer application can help prevent wasting reduce field time and materials used in the field. Examples of precision agriculture technologies Include:

• Precision guidance systems or Auto-steering aids the operator in reducing pass-to-pass overlapping, which reduces to-tal field passes and saves time and equipment wear.

• Auto-swath control switches spray boom or fertilizer spreader sections or planter rows on and off automatically based on field maps to avoid grass waterways or doubling at head rows. A study in Alabama estimated that using the Auto-Swath resulted in savings of $1.50 to $25.00 per acre depending on crop, equipment size and accuracy of the technology [12].

• Variable rate technology applies fertilizer, pesticides or water in the precise amounts needed for the crop being grown.

• Implement guidance can reduce side slippage of variable and sloping terrain.

These technologies can be added to existing tractors and equipment but it may be more cost effective to purchase them as options as equipment is replaced. Manufacturers are starting to embed this type of technology into new equipment, further decreasing prices. Cost for auto-steering can range from $5000 to $50,000 depending on the accuracy desired (these estimates are from a 2011 survey of vendor costs, by the author).

Precision agricultural technology allows the opportunity for more precise management of field production. Applying the correct amount of fertilizer and pesticide and seeding to maximize the soil’s potential can reduce input, energy and maximize profits. Geographic Information System (GIS) software technologies allow the management of small areas within a field to track yield trends over a period of years.  These tools allow management to determine the factors limiting yields. Greater yields with fewer inputs will reduce the energy per unit of product produced.