Precision Agriculture: Meaning,Scope and evaluation with special reference to India

Precision Agriculture: Meaning,Scope and evaluation with special reference to India

Precision agriculture (PA) is an approach to farm management that uses information technology (IT) to ensure that the crops and soil receive exactly what they need for optimum health and productivity. The goal of PA is to ensure profitability, sustainability and protection of the environment. PA is also known as satellite agriculture, as-needed farming and site-specific crop management (SSCM).

Why Precision Farming?
-To enhance productivity in agriculture.
-Prevents soil degradation in cultivable land.
-Reduction of chemical use in crop production.
-Efficient use of water resources.
-Dissemination of modern farm practices to improve quality, quantity & reduced cost of production in agricultural crops.

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Most common technologies applied to Precision Farming practices-

• High precision positioning systems (like GPS) are the key technology to achieve accuracy when driving in the field, providing navigation and positioning capability anywhere on earth, anytime under any all conditions. The systems record the position of the field using geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude) and locate and navigate agricultural vehicles within a field with 2cm accuracy.

• Automated steering systems: enable to take over specific driving tasks like auto-steering, overhead turning, following field edges and overlapping of rows. These technologies reduce human error and are the key to effective site management:

Assisted steering systems show drivers the way to follow in the field with the help of satellite navigation systems such as GPS. This allows more accurate driving but the farmer still needs to steer the wheel.
Automated steering systems, take full control of the steering wheel allowing the driver to take the hands off the wheel during trips down the row and the ability to keep an eye on the planter, sprayer or other equipment.
Intelligent guidance systems provide different steering patterns (guidance patterns) depending on the shape of the field and can be used in combination with above systems.

• Geomapping: used to produce maps including soil type, nutrients levels etc in layers and assign that information to the particular field location. (see picture on the left)

• Sensors and remote sensing: collect data from a distance to evaluating soil and crop health (moisture, nutrients, compaction, crop diseases). Data sensors can be mounted on moving machines.

• Integrated electronic communications between components in a system for example, between tractor and farm office, tractor and dealer or spray can and sprayer.

• Variable rate technology (VRT): ability to adapt parameters on a machine to apply, for instance, seed or fertiliser according to the exact variations in plant growth, or soil nutrients and type.

Advantages :
Agronomical perspective            Use agronomical practices by looking at specific requirements of crop
Technical perspective                 allows efficient time management
Environmental perspective         eco-friendly practices in crop
Economical perspective              increases crop yield, quality and reduces cost of production by efficient use of farm inputs, labour, water etc

Challenges in adopting precision farming in India
The adoption of precision farming in India is yet in the nascent stage due to its unique pattern of land holdings, poor infrastructure, lack of farmers inclination to take the risk, social and economic conditions and demographic conditions
The small size of landholdings in most of the Indian agriculture limits economic gains from currently available precision farming technology.

Way forward
Rapid socio-economic changes such as economic growth, urbanization, and energy consumption are creating new opportunities for the application of precision farming in India. Instead of blindly adopting the advanced Precision Agriculture technologies adopted by developed countries, India should adopt technologies based on the need of the socio-economic condition of the country.