Nowadays, precision agriculture needs a lot of attention to be treated precisely because of global warming, climate change, reduction in the water resources, health hazards due to the insecticides, pesticides, and the use of excess amount of fertilizers to meet the needs of growing population. There is a great challenge for us to increase production to feed the World by using fewer inputs, eliminating health hazards, making the environment safer by lowering the use of insecticides, pesticides, and fertilizers. It becomes possible when we know about the potential of specific land and its composition of all nutrients necessary for the better yield and soil water requirements. Is it possible that a farmer come to field, ride on his tractor, push a button and he come to know all about the patches of his land deficient in specific nutrients, and push another button to fill the bucket behind the tracker with specific nutrient required to that patches, and at the end he push another button which starts the engine and go to all nutrients and water deficient areas and provide all those inputs which that different patches of soil need automatically and farmer just enjoy the riding on tracker? It looks like a dream but now it is a reality which is known by the term “Precision Agriculture”
Precision agriculture can be defined as: a management system, based on information and technology, which is site specific and uses one or more of the following data: soil, crops, moisture, nutrients, pests, or yield for optimum profitability, sustainability, and environment protection. Precision agriculture is site specific cultivation system. It is based on the idea that all the agricultural land is first classified on the bases of nutrients, moisture, productivity, and other soil properties. After classification, land suitable to different crops should be allotted. It helps to increase our production by using proper amount of all inputs and there will be no wastage of inputs as we know exact requirement of all the inputs required by the soil and crop. To measure the exact amount of all the inputs, we use some equipment connected to GPS system.
Precision agriculture uses some modern equipment like auto-steer, Global Positioning System (GPS), remote sensing, variable rate applications, yield monitoring system etc. These all equipment coordinates with one another and makes agricultural practices very easy and more input responsive. GPS is the heart of precision agriculture. It is used to measure the exact location of any object on the surface of earth by broadcasting signal through satellites. GPS receiver on the object like tractor in the field receive signal from the satellites and by making some calculations, it measures the exact location of the tractor. By using GPS receivers, a farmer can map their field boundaries, irrigation system, and problem area of crop land like weeds or disease. A farmer can also take samples of soil year after year to check the current position of nutrients composition of soil.
There are some mapping software which map the land according to the different concentrations of nutrients in the soil layer. Global Information System is one of them. It is used to collect the data from the field like concentration of different nutrients in the soil layer. It divides the soil into different patches according to the concentration of different nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium etc. Auto-steer is a GPS guidance system which receives and processes the signals. When the farmer switch on the auto steer system fitted in the tractor, it collects the information of the field through GPS system and automatically applies all the nutrients to the field according to its demand. There is no need for farmer to worry about the field applications of nutrients, spray or pesticides when auto steer is switched on.
Sensors are used to check the crop condition at the different levels of the crop. Sensors are fitted in the drone or airplane. Drone is allowed to fly above the crop area and make photography of the crop. These photos show the different vegetative characters. For example, if the field is under the nutrients, water or pest attack stress, photography divides the crop area into different zones which show the different level of nutrients, water, and pest attacked area with specific color. In the fig, light green area of field showing the low concentration of Nitrogen level in the soil. This Photo is captures by a sensor in the drone. So, by using sensors, we can check the status of vegetation and can apply the exact amount of fertilizer to that area. Sensors are also used to monitor the yield of the grains, forage and cotton crops .
Variable rate application is amazing equipment used in precision agriculture. It is controlled by the GPS system. It has nozzles of varying size for the application of insecticides, pesticides, and fertilizers at once. It is given all the information about the field condition for the application of insecticides, pesticides, and fertilizers. It supplies insecticides, pesticides, and fertilizers according to the need of soil as data is already installed in this equipment about the needs of different nutrients, pesticides, and insecticides of the soil. For example, there are A, B, and C nozzles in this equipment for insecticides, pesticides, and fertilizer application respectively. While the tractor, moving around in the field, finds that some point on the soil needs fertilizer, nozzle C will open and apply fertilizer. If insecticide is required, nozzle B will open and all other nozzles will remain close. In this way, the field is given exact application of all the required components.
Here are some advantages and disadvantages of Precision agriculture.
- GPS system used in precision agriculture increases the yield, efficiency, productivity and safety of the crop.
- It decreases the bad environmental impacts, input used like fertilizers pesticides, insecticides etc., cost of production, and threats of the theft.
- There is precisely seeding in the fields by the seed drill controlled by the GPS system.
- Spray nozzles having sensors shut down when there is no vegetation under the nozzles and it reduces the wastage of fertilizers.
- Auto steer and sensors with GPS system ensure the automatic application of agricultural practices so farmers can work at night in the fields also.
- Maps of the soil give all information about the inputs to be supplied in the soil.
- As all the equipments are controlled by the GPS system, so, there is no overlapping of the tillage practices by the tractor and as a result there is no compaction of soil and fertility of soil remain maintained.
- Precision farming totally dependent upon the modern equipment and small farmers cannot afford them.
- The equipment used in this farming requires the new technology like GPS system, computer operations, and calculation. But our most of the farmers are illiterate. It will take longer time to make them understand that how does precision farming work.
- The maintenance of equipment is costly.
- For the complete implementation of this system, it requires many years to collect the data of the field to work accurately.
Although it is very advance and precise way of farming, but the launching of this system in Pakistan is not so easy because Pakistan is developing country and the farmers of Pakistan have small pieces of land. They cannot afford such costly system of farming without the help of government. If we want to see Pakistan as an advance in our farming to make the agriculture better and indirectly to our economy, government should take attention towards the new technologies in the agriculture sector.