Geographical information systems are simply maps. Maps that plot out your data and give you real time information that you can use to make smart decisions as part of your precision agriculture efforts on your farm.
Think of them as heat maps, in a way. You create a physical representation of your farm on the map, and use it to present your data. No matter how small or big your farm is, a Geographical Information System gives you a birds-eye view, meaning you can see all your farm at once. Understanding how your farm works as a whole can be invaluable.
For example, you might be able to show soil moisture levels on your map combined with ground elevation. From there you can work out where the irrigation on your farm is spreading to.
That’s just one way that you can use a map to find the data. Here’s 3 ways you can then use that data to help your farm economy, saving money and reducing spend and waste in the future.
Reduce water waste
A geographical information system could highlight underground wells, or even lakes, below the surface of your farm. This can completely change the way you farm. All that irrigation on the south side was pointless: it has a natural water source all of its own! By only irrigating where it’s needed, you are drastically going to reduce water waste.
Furthermore, over watering in the past may have resulted in water logged soils, which have damaged your crops through rot or worse. Using water more efficiently is going to reduce the chances of your crops developing root rot and other diseases that like a water habitat. Reducing water use efficiently saves money in the short term and improves crop health in the long term.
Prevent soil erosion and washing
When you can see your farm from a bird-eye view, it becomes more obvious how your land is working as an ecosystem. You can watch where your fertilizer spreads, for example. You might notice that it tends to pool in the south-east corner of your field because of how the land slopes and soil erodes in the wind.
With this data, you can take steps to spread your fertilizer more evenly. Start by reducing the fertilizer spread in the area where it tends to pool anyway, and increasing the amount of fertilizer in places it tends to erode from. It might even be an idea to fertilise multiple times in smaller amounts, ensuring a more even spread and giving your crops a chance to absorb nutrients before they erode away.
Change your farm layout
When you can see your farm from above, when you can monitor fields on a metre by metre basis, you can be 100 times more precise with your farming.
Half of field A is prone to flooding, whereas the other half is much higher elevated and has more clay in the soil. Perhaps it would be better to split field A in half? You could plant alfalfa in the moist area, as it can stand flooding and needs very damp soil to grow well throughout the season. Broccoli and cabbage, on the other hand, prefer clay soils because they allow a much firmer anchorage and so would be perfect on the other half of the field.
Playing to your farms naturally strengths like this will help to boost yields and create healthier, happier crops.
Those 3 ways can certainly help you to make the most of your farm, therefore boosting productivity, yields and profits… but we hope you’ve also taken note of how Geographic Information Systems can solve problems you might not have realized existed!
Precision farming is the way forward, with many large organisations from governments to communities encouraging you to take up precision practices. By working together to create more precise farming methods, we can reduce waste across the world, creating a more efficient economy and healthier ecosystem.