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PRECISION FARMING

S.No. TOPIC Page No.

1. INTRODUCTION 3

• Concept of precision farming 3


• Definition of precision farming
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1. PRECISION FARMING TECHNOLOGIES 5
• Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Global 5
Positioning Systems (GPS),
• Sensors, 5
• Variable Rate Technology (VRT)
• Yield Monitoring (YM) and Yield Mapping. 6

1. SOURCES OF YIELD VARIABILITY 7

2. OBSTACLES IN ADOPTING PRECISION FARMING 8

3. PRESENT SCENARIO OF PRECISION FARMING IN INDIA 8

4. CASE STUDIES 9
• Tata Kisan Kendra
• Government Organization

1. STRATEGIES FOR IMPLEMENTING PRECISION FARMING 10


IN INDIA

2. CONCLUSION 11

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3. REFERENCES 12

INTRODUCTION

Precision Agriculture is the application of technologies and principles to manage spatial and
temporal variability associated with all aspects of agricultural production for improving production
and environmental quality. The success in precision agriculture depends on the accurate
assessment of the variability, its management and evaluation in space-time continuum in crop
production. The agronomic success of precision agriculture has been quite convincing in crops like
sugar beet, sugarcane, tea and coffee. The potential for economic, environmental and social
benefits of precision agriculture is largely unrealized because the space-time continuum of crop
production has not been adequately addressed. Precision agriculture is a relatively new area that
combines the latest in geographic technology with cropping situations to optimize inputs, reduce
waste, and generate the maximum possible yields. The technology often involves the use of GPS
and remote sensing for data collection, GIS for data processing and analysis, and variable rate
technology for implementing ideal models. These systems are designed for use in all types of
agricultural systems, from row crops to dairies, and the technology has seen widespread adoption
across the US and worldwide.

Precision farming basically depends on measurement and understanding of variability, the


main components of precision farming system must address the variability. Precision farming
technology enabled, information based and decision focused, the components include, (the
enabling technologies) Remote Sensing (RS), Geographical Information System (GIS),
Global Positioning System (GPS), Soil Testing, Yield Monitors and Variable Rate
Technology. Precision farming requires the requisition, management, analysis and output of large
amount of spatial and temporal data. Mobile computing systems were needed to function on the go
in farming operations because desktop systems in the farm office were not sufficient. Because
precision farming is concerned with spatial and temporal variability and it is information based and
decision focused. It is the spatial analysis capabilities of GIS that enable precision agriculture.
GPS, DGPS has greatly enabled precision farming and of great importance to precision farming,
particularly for guidance and digital evaluation modeling position accuracies at the centimeter
level are possible in DGPS receivers.

CONCEPT OF PRECISION FARMING

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The conventional agronomic practices being adopted now follow a standard management option
for a large area irrespective of the variability occurring within and among the cultivable land. For
decades together, the farmers have been applying fertilizers based on recommendations emanating
from research and field trials under specific agro-climatic conditions. Since soil-nutrient,
characteristics vary not only from one region to another, but also from field to field, this may be
one of the reasons for the present production level. Even within a field, there is a need to take into
account such variability while applying fertilizers to a particular crop. Precision farming or
precision agriculture or precision crop management has to consider intra-field variations in soil
fertility and crop conditions and matching the agricultural inputs like seed, fertilizer, irrigation and
use of plant protection chemicals & Methods has to optimize the input or maximize the crop yield
from a given quantum of input.

Precision agriculture is based on information technology, which enables the producer to collect
information and data for better decision making. Precision agriculture is a pro-active approach that
reduces some of the risks and variables common to agriculture. The concept of precision
agriculture offers the promise of increasing productivity while decreasing production cost and
minimizing environmental impacts. Precision agriculture conjures up images of farmers
overcoming the elements with computerized machinery that is precisely controlled via satellites
and local sensors and using appropriate software that accurately predicts crop development. This
concept is considered by some as the future of agriculture.

DEFINITION OF PRECISION FARMING

The term site Specific Crop Management (SCM) or Precision Farming was coined at the
Second International Conference on Site Specific Management for Agricultural Systems, held in
March 1994 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A. Site Specific Crop Management (SSCM) refers to
developing agricultural management systems that promotes variable management practices within
a field according to site or soil conditions. This concept is also called in developed countries as
spatially prescriptive farming; computer aided farming; farming by satellite; high-tech
sustainable agriculture; soil-specific crop management; site-specific farming; and precision
farming.
A broad definition of precision farming can be proposed as information and technology based
agricultural management system to identify, analyze, and manage soil in terms of spatial and
temporal variability within field for optimum profitability, sustainability, and protection of the
environment. The term “precision farming” also means carefully choosing the soil and crop
management strategies to fit the different conditions encountered in arable land.

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Figure 1: Precision Farming - an Overview g
Figure 1f
PRECISION FARMING TECHNOLOGIES
Precision farming (PF) is a management philosophy or approach to the farm. It identifies the
critical factors where yield is limited by controllable factors, and determines intrinsic spatial
variability. It is essentially more precise farm management made possible by modern technology.
The variations occurring in crop or soil properties within a field are recorded, mapped and then
management actions are planned and initiated as a consequence of continued assessment of the
spatial variability within that field.
The major components of technology used for PF management practices are
• Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS),
• Sensors,
• Variable Rate Technology (VRT)
• Yield Monitoring (YM) and Yield Mapping.

1. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS)


GIS refers to computer software that provides for data storage, retrieval, and transformation of
spatial (field) data. GIS software for precision farming management will store data, such as soil
type, nutrient levels, etc, in layers and assign that information to the particular field location. A
fully functional GIS can be used to analyze characteristics between layers to develop
application maps or other management options. The field location is usually stored by the
latitude and longitude of that position, which is typically found using a Global Positioning
System (GPS). Remote sensing techniques play an important role in precision farming by
providing continuously, acquired data of agricultural crops. Remote sensors image vegetation,
which is growing on different soil types at different soil available water regimes, substrate,
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impact of cultivation, and relief. These differences influence the state of the plants and cause
heterogeneous areas within a single fields. The analysis of the variability occurring within the
field is carried out by measuring soil and plant parameters through conventional methods as
well as through spectral techniques using ground truth spectro-radiometer (350-1800 nm) and
satellite data.

Several maps can be created showing the variability of nutrient levels, soil type, topography,
pest incidence and yield. Most GIS software packages also have some form of data smoothing
or contouring (rigging). The accuracy of a smoothed map depends on the sampling or distance
between sample points (location where data was taken) and the smoothing technique adopted.
It should be noted that all maps are not generated from GIS code. Depending on individual
level of PF need, a GIS may not be required. Software to create these maps are generally of
three types. First is software that automatically creates maps from a given data set with a
minimal ability to modify the default map attributes. This is technically a simple mapping
software. Examples of this software include JDMap, Agleader Precision Map 2000, Micro-
Trek utilities, and Formworks Quick Yields. A second classification of software provides more
flexibility to change map parameters and create maps of several attributes (designed from
ground-up for farm GIS). Examples include SGIS, Crop Growers VisAg, Farm site, and
AgINFO. he third classification of GIS software has a front-end added to it so that it can be
used for agricultural mapping, such as SSToolbox, FarmHMS, RDI AgMAPP, and AgLink.

2. Sensors
Sensors are being used to determine crop stress, soil properties, pest incidence, etc. as the
tractor or any other mobile device passes over the field, as a scout goes over the field on foot,
or as an airplane or satellite photographs the field from the sky. Measurement of plant and soil
properties as the tractor or combine travels over the field is a developing area in precision
farming. Currently, yield monitors are the primary sensing system that makes measurements.
The observed values (through sensor) are compared with real time values and make
recommendations on the appropriate application rates of nitrogen, other nutrients, irrigation
and pesticides efforts are about to achieve Perfection of sensors to be precise in relation to
other parameters namely, weeds, nitrogen levels in plants, and total soil properties. There lies a
long way to go and to have it to suit to resource poor farmers of the developing world will take
much more time and is a difficult task to promote PC under such situations. There are also
sensors that can be carried by a scout to the field and used to spot check the health of plants
and soil properties. They use light reflectance on the leaf to determine chlorophyll levels. It has
been shown that nitrogen levels in the plant are directly proportional to the chlorophyll
production. Several soil chemistry kits are also available to measure soil pH, nitrogen,
potassium and phosphorus in the field without waiting for soil sample results.

Remote sensors are generally categorized as aerial or satellite sensors that can provide instant
maps of field characteristics. An aerial photograph is an optical sensor that can display
variations in field color that correspond to changes in soil type, crop development, field
boundaries, roads, status of soil water, water bodies etc. Both aerial and satellite imagery can
be processed to provide vegetative indices that also reflect plant health. One common dilemma
with aerial photographs is georeferencing the data. The aerial photograph can be linked to a
known field position by placing flag targets, of known location, in the field prior to the fly-
over. It is important to know the altitude of the plane and the aperture of the lens.

3. Variable Rate Technology (VRT)

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Variable rate applicator is a software aided device to apply any external monetary inputs
namely, fertilizers, pesticides and so on by duly considering the precise variations within the
field. During application, according to the crop requirement and field variability, the inputs
will be delivered. The variable rate applicator has three components such as Control
computer, Locator and Actuator. The control computer coordinates the field operation. It has
a map of desired activity as a function of geographic location. It receives the equipment’s
current location from the locator, which has a GPS in it, and decides what to do based upon the
map in its memory or data storage. It then issues the command to the actuator, which does the
input application.

4. Yield Monitoring (YM) and Yield Mapping


Yield Monitoring is the most direct method to assess the productivity of land and how it
should be better managed. A yield monitor (YM) measures the crop as it is harvested. YMs
usually measure crop weight, impact forces by passing an array of light beams that are broken.
Other methods are also being investigated that show promise for future yield monitors. As the
yield is measured, data are stored on a computer along with the GPS coordinates at the point
where the yield was measured. Mapping software can then create a yield map. The yield map
can immediately provide two important pieces of information, yield variability, and yield
production. Yield variability is illustrated on a map by a change in color, where each color
represents a range in yield. As a convention red is suggested to represent low yields and green
high yields. The map legend will tell you how to read what each color indicates. In all mapping
situations, it is important to check the legend first. Lack of yield variability would mean that
the map shows mostly one color. Yield data can be obtained by calculating the yield for the
entire field. Yield monitors are in the development stages. As these systems move from testing
to application, hopefully commercial systems will not be far behind.

Table 1: Major differences between Map based and Sensor based Precision farming systems.

Sl. Parameter Map based Sensor based

No
.

1. Methodology Grid Sampling - lab analyses Real time sensors – Feedback


-site specific maps and use of
variable rate applicator control measures and use of

variable rate applicator


2. GPS/DGPS Very much required Not necessary
3. Laboratory Required Not required
analyses

(Plant & Soil)

4. Mapping Required May not required

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5. Time consumption More Less
6. Limitations Cost of soil testing and analyses Lack of sufficient sensors for
limits the usage
getting crop and soil
information
7. Operation Difficult Easy
8. Skills Required Required
9. Sampling unit 2 to 3 acres Individual spot
10 Relevance Popular in Developing Popular in Developed countries
. countries

SOURCES OF YIELD VARIABILITY

If the yield monitor reveals a lot of yield variability, then it indicates a larger variation in the field.
In some cases it is usually known by the farmer where the trouble spots are. But, not always. While
it may be apparent that yield is low in certain places, you may not know how low it actually is and
what are the main reasons for the variability. There are several sources for yield variability:
• Water stress in an unirrigated or under irrigated spot of a field or on high spots
• Lack of nutrients for good plant growth and production
• pH imbalance for poor release of available nutrients
• Weed pressure competing with crop for water, nutrients, and sunlight
• Disease pressure reducing leaf area for production
• Insect pressure reducing leaf area for production
• Poor drainage (topography and soil texture)
• Shaded areas if present
Yield reduction may also be within the control of the farmer in other ways. Equipment and/or
operator error can cause:
• Planting problems (clogged, deep/shallow planting, etc.), which may cause plant stand
problems, reducing yield potential
• Soil ameliorant spreader missing some spots and over application on others, which affects
the pH balance, nutrient balance
• Faulty nozzle(s) on herbicide, insecticide, or fungicide applicator, leaving some plants
vulnerable.

OBSTACLES IN ADOPTING PRECISION FARMING


Following are the few that hinder this concept not only in India but also many of the developing
countries:
• Some farm holdings are fragmented and even minimal mechanization is not possible.
• GIS and GPS facilities are yet to reach the hands of even the rich farmers.
• Culture and perceptions of the users - High tech cultivation practices are not accepted by
farmers in developing countries because the farmers are largely resource poor.
• The soil and other analytical facilities are also a limiting factor.

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• Most of the inputs namely water soluble fertilizers, hybrid seeds, annual fruit seeds and
seedlings are being used at high costs and only a few farmers can afford the costs involved.
• The existing post harvesting facilities and market chains are at stake and not in a position to
store or transport the produce.
• High cost of sophisticated machines/equipments also acts as a limiting factor.
• Small farm size
• Lack of success stories
• Heterogeneity of cropping systems and market imperfections
• Land ownership, infrastructure and institutional constraints
• Lack of local technical expertise
• Knowledge and technical gaps
• Data availability, quality and costs

PRESENT SCENARIO OF PRECISION FARMING IN INDIA


The plateauing of growth of food grain production in India rings alarm bells for food scarcity
within near future. Now Indian government with the active coordination of other states is trying
hard to increase the food production level. One among the ways chosen is adoption of precision
farming technologies over a larger area. With limitation in facilities, only a few simpler tools of
the precision farming technologies is being practiced to boost the productivity and that starts
happening in many states across India. The few simple tools that are being adopted are as follows:

• Soil analysis for critical level of nutrients and also soil reclamation for problem areas.
• Applying fertilizers according to the crop requirement and infield variability over smaller
plots not considered.
• Chiseling to break hard pans, partial mechanization of larger holdings for raising broad bed
and furrows, weeding inter row spacing and mechanical harvesting in some crops.
• For wide spaced crops, fruits and vegetables installation of drip irrigation systems.
• For high value crops, fertigation with high cost water soluble fertilizers is also gaining
momentum. There are so many success stories across India. The drip fertigation technology
adoption alone has seen a fivefold increase in many important commercial, horticultural
and agricultural crops. Many farmers opined that cost for irrigation, fertilizer application,
weeding and harvesting has come down drastically after switching over to drip fertigation
method.
• Use of organic manures and adoption of integrated management practices in irrigation,
nutrients, weeds, insects and pathogens seem to reduce costs increase yield and safeguard
environment. Large scale adoption of PF in future will have pronounced impact on the food
scenario of the country but this may not happen.

Exposing the fellow farmers for motivation to switch over to this newer technology by forming
commodity and activity based groups can yield definite results in the production enhancement.

CASE STUDIES
The GIS, in consultation with a Decision Support System would decide what the exact requirement
of fertilisers for that location is. It then commands a variable rate fertilisers applicator, which is
again attached with the tractor, to apply the exact dosage at the precise location of farm. But, this is
what precision farming means to large growers in the highly developed parts of the globe. To make
it clearer, Precision Farming is the system of matching of resource application and agronomic
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practices with soil attributes and crop requirements. Few organizations are helping the farmers to
go for technology driven precision farming :
1. Tata Kisan Kendra
2. Government Organization - Space Applications Centre (ISRO), M.S. Swaminathan
Research Foundation, Chennai, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, and
Project Directorate of Cropping Systems Research, Modipuram,

1. Tata Kisan Kendra

The concept of precision farming being implemented by the TKKs has the potential to catapult
rural India from the bullock-cart age into the new era of satellites and IT. TCL’s extension
services, brought to farmers through the TKKs, use remote-sensing technology to analyze soil,
inform about crop health, pest attacks and coverage of various crops predicting the final output.
This helps farmers adapt quickly to changing conditions. The results are healthier crops, higher
yields and enhanced incomes for farmers.

2. Government Organization

Precision Agriculture models are not complete, unless the parameters related to empowerment of
the farmers; especially small and marginal farmers are integrated. Now it is the turn of good news
to the Indian farming community. Some of the research institutes such as Space Applications
Centre (ISRO), M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai, Indian Agricultural Research
Institute, New Delhi, and Project Directorate of Cropping Systems Research, Modipuram, had
started working in this direction and soon it will help the Indian farmers harvest the fruits of
frontier technologies without compromising on the quality of land. According to the Exim Bank
officials, though the research and development on PF is currently at a nascent stage in the country,
the efforts being put on by the four research institutes are expected to turn the green revolution into
an evergreen revolution. In this context, ISRO has also initiated Gramsat project in Orissa. In the
line of JDCP, the Gramsat project aims at empowering the people especially the poor and
marginalized, by awareness building and access to information and services. Towards this end, a
network of one-way video and two-way audio Forecasting the yield of mono and multiple crops is
being done at National Remote Sensing Agency, Hyderabad (NRSA).

Acreage estimates and crop inventory is being done during Kharif and Rabi seasons for Rice,
which is the major crop grown in India. Other crops like Banana, Chilies, Cotton, Maize,
Sugarcane and Tobacco are also being inventoried. Satellite data can also delineate different crops
that are growing in the same area, and an inventory of each of the crops can be done. The study is
aided by sensors such as IRS WiFS/LISS-III/PAN and Radar sat ScanSAR. Some of the other
studies include: Crop condition assessment, Agricultural drought assessment, Pests and diseases,
Land capability and irrigability.

Few other ways of bringing in more areas under precision farming are consolidation of farm
holdings either through cooperative farming, contract farming or corporate farming; conversion of
vast tracts of rainfed areas through provision of water sources under pressurized irrigation systems;
mechanization of farming; and providing required technology back up both hardware and software.

Geographically, India is delineated into several agro-climatic zones, and the information need for
the farming systems in these areas is entirely different. Integrating the application of available
technologies to realize farmers’ goals requires a systems approach to farming. The concept of fully
automated villages was a dream till few months back. But the reality has come to true with the

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rapid growth of information and communication technology in the world scenario. The wired
villages and info villages have shown that Information can be disseminated in more useful manner
based on need. Then only the green revolution will become ever green revolution.

STRATEGIES FOR IMPLEMENTING PRECISION FARMING IN


INDIA
In the present situation, the potential of precision agriculture in India is limited by the lack of
appropriate measurement and analysis techniques for agronomicaly important factors (National
Research Council, 1997). High accuracy sensing and data management tools must be developed
and validated to support both research and production. The limitation in data quality/availability
has become a major obstacle in the demonstration and adoption of the precision technologies. The
adoption of precision agriculture needs combined efforts on behalf of scientists, farmers and the
government. The following methodology could be adopted in order to operationalise precision
farming in the country.
1. Creation of multidisciplinary teams involving agricultural scientists in various fields,
engineers, manufacturers and economists to study the overall scope of precision
agriculture.
2. Formation of farmer’s co-operatives since many of the precision agriculture tools are costly
(GIS, GPS, RS, etc.).
3. Government legislation restraining farmers using indiscriminate farm inputs and thereby
causing ecological/environmental imbalance would induce the farmer to go for alternative
approach.
4. Pilot study should be conducted on farmer’s field to show the results of precision
agriculture implementation.
5. Creating awareness amongst farmers about consequences of applying imbalanced doses of
farm inputs like irrigation, fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides.

Creating awareness and making available the potential space technology in precision farming with
the help of Department of Space, Government of India. Already initiated pilot studies in
agricultural farms of the ICRISAT, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the
Agricultural Universities, as well as in farmers’ fields have to be highlighted among the farming
community. The pilot studies are mainly aimed at delineating homogeneous zones with respect to
soil fertility and crop yield, estimation of potential yield, yield gap analysis, monitoring
seasonally-variable soil and crop conditions using optical and microwave sensor data, and
matching the farm inputs to bridge the gap between potential and actual yield through Spatial
Decision Support Systems (SDSS). The test sites are spread over a fairly large area across a cross
section of agro-climatic zones of the Indian sub-continent, and cover some of the important crops
like wheat, rice, sorghum, pigeon pea, chickpea, soybean and groundnut. If the pilot study results
are extrapolated with furthermore data base of the farming conditions, it can help to bring a larger
area under precision farming.

CONCLUSION
Precision agriculture is environmentally sound and is an integral part in sustainable use of natural
resources. Precision agriculture is considered as a concept or a management strategy, or even a
philosophy. It is said, “Precision agriculture is a phrase that captures the imagination of many
concerned with the production of food, feed, and fiber.” Precision farming is a technologically
advanced system of application of development in GIS, GPS and computer aided techniques. For
resource poor farmers it may be difficult to access this technology and adopt the same to leap
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benefits. However the technology has the potential to impact the productivity of high value crops,
crops cultivated under contract farming and crops cultivated in large contiguous areas.

Precision farming in many developing countries including India is in its infancy but there are
numerous opportunities for adoption. Progressive Indian farmers, with guidance from the public
and private sectors, and agricultural associations, will adopt it in a limited scale as the technology
shows potential for raising yields and economic returns on fields with significant variability, and
for minimizing environmental degradation. The support from governments and the private sector
during the initial stages of adoption is, therefore vital.

Not all elements of precision farming are relevant for each and every farm. For instance,
introduction of variable rate applicators is not always necessary or the most appropriate level of
spatial management in Indian farms. Likewise, not all farms are suitable to implement precision
farming. Some growers are likely to adopt it partially, adopting certain elements but not others.
Precision farming cannot be convincing if only environmental benefits are emphasized. We must
be cautious, however, is not overselling the technologies without providing adequate product
support. The adoption of precision farming also depends on product reliability, the support
provided by manufacturers and the ability to show the benefits. Effective coordination among the
public and private sectors and growers is, therefore, essential for implementing new strategies to
achieve fruitful success.

For the Indian population, agriculture is the backbone and our country’s economy as 19% of GDP
and 70% employment is generated from agriculture only. Green revolution succeeded in India to
increase the farmer’s income level to some extent and also yield of major crops and enabled the
country self-reliant in food production. This happened due to the introduction of high-yielding
varieties and use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in an intensive manner coupled with
enlargement of irrigated area. In the post-green revolution period agricultural production has
become stagnant, and horizontal expansion of cultivable lands became limited due to burgeoning
population and industrialization. In 1952, India had 0.33 ha of available land per capita and now it
is got reduced to 0.15 ha and further getting reduced. At this very critical juncture of population
explosion with a near plateauing of agricultural production, we are in a critical position to increase
the agricultural production, at least by 4.0% to ensure for food security. For achieving this goal,
one of the alternatives is precision farming which involves using all the available resources be it
monetary, or non monetary to achieve the peak efficiency levels.

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