On many levels we as precision farmers already have some kind of crop modelling program integrated with our smart farm management practices. We monitor soils, monitor seeding, monitor yields etc. All of these little clues form jigsaw pieces to the bigger puzzle. That being, how much yield are we to expect come harvest time?
A lot of research and development goes into putting the final parts of that jigsaw into place and it is only now that we are starting to see the bigger picture and are able to predict with a good degree of accuracy how our crops will perform from seed to harvest. Whole university departments have tracked and monitored interactions between corn crops and weather for example. Big tech companies have used data from universities the world over to build tech that will viably model how a crop will perform.
For the first time ever, computers are relatively inexpensive, and farmers have access to them. Better network connections and infrastructure in rural areas mean that farmers are able to get all the latest weather information in real time at the click of a button. Cheap and accessible drones allow farmers to effectively complete fast reconnaissance of their fields and collect up to the minute crop data. Just as cheap are the unmanned ground trawlers that pair with the drones and can collect soil samples or spray weeds.
Within an hour a smart agriculturalist will have a wealth of information that is up to date and ready to be input into a computer program. So, after decades of research, interaction monitoring and trial and error, farmers are able at the drop of a hat to get a bearing on their crop performance. The masses of sums and computations that would have previously needed huge servers can now be done on a handheld device.
All of this adds to productivity. Farmers can now tell how a crop is performing as well as how it is expected to perform. Farmers are able to gauge yields like never before which makes budgeting and other practical considerations (storage and wholesale) easier to manage. Gone are the days of anxiety and stress caused by not really having a grasp of what to expect come harvest time. Smart agriculturalists are now able to model their crops not on just a seasonal basis but for many seasons to come.
This means that crop rotations can be calculated with some degree of accuracy for years to come and farmers can plan ahead carefully with a vast amount of information to go on. Because the technology is ever present as well it means that the slightest change can be added to the information creating a real-time crop model. These sophisticated models not only provide farmers a wonderful blueprint of what to expect but they also track improvements. This means a precision farmer can experiment with new and innovative techniques and see how that effects the crop models from one field to the next. Instead of installing farm wide fertigation a farmer can get test it on a sectional basis and compare with a non-fertigated section. If the crop models are favourable he can then calculate the cost of expansion accurately against yield profits.
This technology gives farmers a literal yes/no answer to important financial decisions allowing them to concentrate on enjoying the running of the farm and not worry about the business and financial aspect.
What are your experiences of crop modelling? Is there a particular bit of software you want us to look at or have you tried one that you recommend? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to check back here for all the up to date farm tech news.