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Satellites make modern farming easier and more precise

Satellites make modern farming easier and more precise

Technical development in agriculture is moving quickly in other areas as well. The tractor or combine harvester now can be controlled automatically, and a GPS navigation system provides the driver with exact information on the tractor’s position. It reduces fuel consumption and allows fertilizing and harvesting operations to be carried out with greater precision. The driver’s working environment is also improved, since he or she does not have to steer the vehicle.

Computer support for precision farming

Sensors and computer screens provide the driver of a modern combine harvester with information on, for example, driving distances, harvesting per hour, grain water content and unloading in tons per hectare. The driver can adapt the speed to crop density, and even use the computer to plan farming operations. The aim is to find the best possible combination of different crops on agricultural land, to achieve the best possible results from crop rotation and expected crop prices. Information from laboratory analysis can be entered into the computer, to produce details of when to apply lime and how much fertilizer has to be added to different soil types. Information on expected sowing, fertilizing and spraying can also be entered, and all this information can be used as a basis for budgeting for the season.

If farmers use a combination of advanced market analysis and precise positioning, crop growing can be planned with much greater accuracy. The goal of this type of precision growing is to optimize the treatment of each part of a field. Traditionally, lime, fertilizer and crop sprays have been applied equally to every part of a field, but precision growing means that the resources can be targeted on the areas where they are needed most. This reduces the risk of nitrogen and phosphorus leaching into the ground water and watercourses.

For precision growing to work, the farmer must have detailed knowledge of the status of the different areas of a field, and be in complete control of the location of tractors or combine harvesters. For example, information on how much fertilizer needs to be applied to a certain area is stored in the computer. The GPS equipment keeps track of the tractor’s location, and the fertilizer feed is adjusted to the various conditions in a field. Precision GPS equipment reduces the overlap as a machine travels up and down a field from 10 percent of the machine width to only a few centi- metres, and this cuts down on both the hours worked and the amount of fuel consumed. Precision growing generates both financial and environmental benefits, but at present, the method only pays dividend on the largest farms. Crop farming may become even more detailed in the future, and some scientists are aiming for treatment of individual plants, a bit like providing potted plants at home with different amounts of water and nutrients.

Satellite crop monitoring

Nowadays, except GPS and GIS exist special services, which give opportunity to minimize efforts directed to definition of crop vegetation stage, harvest prognosis, weather forecast and fertilization planning just using special programs, based on satellite information. Satellite crop monitoring services provide updates on a daily basis regarding the condition of the sown area, which allows its user to control crop growth dynamics in a real-time setting.

(Based on http://advantage-environment.com/livsmedel/satellite-controlled-agricultural-machines-create-environmental-benefits/)

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