Horticulture Precision Farming
Today, let us discuss the steps of Horticulture Precision Farming and Technology involved.
Horticulture Precision farming is an attempt to adapt to specific differences within fields & so to avoid over or under supplying the plants. The making related application of fertilizers & plant protection agents is reduced thus optimizing yield.
The basis for Horticulture precision farming is the parceling of the agricultural field into smaller units that are grid cells to which a whole battery of information can be assigned. Among these several approaches is a phytogeomorphological approach which ties multi-year crop growth, stability or characteristics to topological terrain attributes. The interest in the phytogeomorphological approach stems from the fact that the geomorphology module typically dictates the hydrology of the farm field.
The practice of precision agriculture has been enabled by the advent of GPS & GNSS. The farmer’s & researcher’s capability to locate their precise situation in a field allows for the creation of maps of the spatial variability of as several variables as can be measured (e.g. Crop yield, terrain features or topography, organic matter content, moisture levels, nitrogen levels, pH, EC, Mg, K, & others). Similar data are collected by sensor arrays mounted on GPS-equipped join harvesters. These arrays consist of real-time sensors that calculate everything from chlorophyll levels to plant water status, along with multispectral imagery. This information is used in conjunction with satellite imagery by variable rate technology (VRT) including seeders, sprayers, etc. to optimally distribute resources.
What is Precision Horticulture (or agriculture):
- An integrated information & creation based farming system designed to increase long term, site-specific and whole farm making efficiency, productivity, and profitability while minimizing unintended impacts on wildlife & the environment.
- Site-Specific Crop Management (SSCM) PA whereby decisions on resource application & agronomic practices are improved to better match soil and crop requirements as they Vary in the field.
- Farming by the foot, farming by satellite, site-specific organization its management, etc.
The Need for Horticulture precision agriculture:
Horticulture Precision agriculture can be defined as the management of spatial & temporal variability in fields using information and communications technologies (ICT). Temporal changes within or between years have been addressed in good quality agricultural practice (GAP) by means of laboratory analyses of example spots, while spatial patterns of plant growth, which have also been recognized for a long time, have been quantified in large scale with the assistance of PA. PA is, so, also referred to as site-specific management. This approach considers an organization system for farms that aims to increase yield or sustainability. PA can assist farmers, because it permits precise & optimized use of inputs adapted to the apparent plant status, consequently leading to reduced costs & environmental impact. Because the practice provides record trail, enhanced traceability of farm activities can be obtained that consumers & administration increasingly require.
These variations can be traced to organization practices, soil properties, and environmental characteristics. Soil characteristics that affect yields include texture, structure, moisture, organic matter, nutrient status & landscape position. Environmental characteristics include weather, weeds, insects & diseases.
- Fatigue of the green revolution:
The green revolution of path contributed a lot. Though, even with the spectacular growth in agriculture, the productivity levels of major crops are far below than expectation. We have not achieved even the lowest stage of the potential productivity of Indian high yielding varieties, whereas the world’s highest productive country has crop yield levels considerably higher than the upper bound of the potential of Indian HYV’s. Even the crop yields of India’s agriculturally rich state like Punjab are far below than the standard yield of many high producing countries.
- Natural resource degradation:
The green revolution is associated with negative environmental consequences. The position of the Indian environment shows that, in India, about 182 million ha of the country’s total geographical area of 328.7 million ha is affected by land degradation of this 141.33 million ha are due to water erosion, 11.50 million ha due to wind erosion and 12.63 & 13.24 million hectares is due to water logging & chemical deterioration respectively. On the other end, India shares 17 percent of world’s population, 1 percent of gross world product, 4 percent of world carbon emission, 3.6 percent of CO2 emission intensity & 2 percent of world forest area. One of the main reasons for this status of the environment is the population growth of 2.2 percent in 1970 – 2000. The Indian position on the environment is, though not alarming when compared to developing countries, gives an early warning.
In this situation, there is a need to convert this green revolution into an evergreen revolution, which will be triggered by farming systems approach that can help to create more from the available land, water & labor resources, without either ecological or social harm. Since precision farming, proposes to prescribe tailor-made management practices, it can help to provide this purpose.
Basic steps in Horticulture precision farming:
The concepts of Horticulture precision farming involve the variation occurring in the crop or soil properties within a field and these variations are often noted & mapped. The necessary steps contributing to the concept of precision farming are assessing, managing & evaluation of variability, and these are described below.
The essential steps in Horticulture precision farming are,
i). Assessing variation
ii). Managing variation
i). Assessing variability
Assessing variability is the important first step in precision farming. Because it is clear that one cannot manage what one does not know. Factors & the processes that regulate or control crop performance in terms of yield vary in space and time. Quantifying the variability of these processes and factors determining when & where different combinations are responsible for the spatial & temporal variation in crop yield is the challenge for precision agriculture.
Methods of assessing temporal variation also exist, but the simultaneous reporting of spatial & temporal variation is rare and the theory of these types of processes is still in its infancy. The spatial variability in the field can be mapped by dissimilar means like surveying, interpolation of point samples, using high-resolution aerial & satellite data and modeling to estimate spatial patterns. The lower cost & ease of measuring variability by high-resolution sensors will be critical to the future & success of precision agriculture.
Techniques for assessing spatial variability are readily available & have been applied extensively in precision agriculture. The main part of precision agriculture lies in assessing spatial variability.
ii). Managing variability
Once variation is adequately assessed farmers should match agronomic inputs to known conditions using management recommendations that are site-specific & use accurate control equipment. The success of implementation of Horticulture precision farming depends on how precisely, soil fertility, pest infestation, crop management with respect to biotic & abiotic variable sand, water are managed in the field & also how accurately the corrective actions are taken as per the variability noticed in the field. All components of the field are not equally infested with the pest, so the variety of weed, insect & disease infestation can be noted and mapped, the remedial action can be applied according to the variety found in different parts of a field. Similarly, water availability in the field can be mapped & irrigation can be applied using the principle of variable rate irrigation.
We can use the technology for the most part effectively. On a site-specific variability organization, we can use a GPS instrument, so that the site specificity is pronounced & management will be easy and economical. While taking the soil or plant samples, we have to note the sample site coordinates & further, we can use the same for management. This results in effective use of inputs and avoids any wastage & this is what we are looking for. For winning implementation, the concept of precision soil fertility management requires that within-field variability exists & is accurately identified and reliably interpreted, that variability influences crop yield, crop quality & in the environment. So, inputs can be applied accurately.
Component and facilitator of Horticulture precision farming:
The enabling knowledge, which enhances the acceptability of precision farming in the eyes of farmers, planners & scientific community, can be grouped into four major classes.
Computer and Internet: The computers and Internet are the mainly important components in enabling the precision farming possible as they are the main source of information processing & gathering. The high-speed computer has made faster processing the data gathered through precise management of the land parcel. Internet, which is a system of computers, is the most recent growth among all these technologies. In agriculture, like any new form of business, the internet has the capability to supply timely data about varying conditions.
Global Positioning System (GPS): The mainly common use of GPS in agriculture is for yield mapping & variable providing location accuracy of 1 m. The GPS of high accuracy in future will allow the farmers to do farming operations at night when wind speed is low & more suitable for spraying & use night tillage to reduce the light-induced germination of definite weeds.
Geographical Information System (GIS): The GIS is a structured collection of computer hardware, software, geographical data, & personnel designed to efficiently capture store, update, manipulate, analyze & displays all forms of the geographically referenced information. It is the spatial analysis capabilities of Geographical Information System that enable precision farming. The GIS is the input to extracting value from information on variability. It is rightly known as the brain of precision farming. It can assist in agriculture in two ways. One is in linking & integrating GIS data (soil, crop, weather, field history) with simulation models. Another is to support the engineering part of designing implements and GPS guided machinery (variable rate applicators) for precision agriculture.
By using the suitable source data, it is possible to use a GIS in order to model processes that are affected by such data, & predict what the effect of this process will be in the future. For example, by combining soil, vegetation & meteorological data, it is possible to find the potential yield of a field, assuming no other factors will influence the normal vegetation growth. With these models, we can spot problem areas in the field, find the cause of the reduced yield & take the appropriate measures to deal with the problem.
Remote sensing holds huge promise for precision agriculture because of its potential for monitoring spatial variability over time at high resolution. Various workers have exposed the advantages of using remote sensing technology to obtain spatially & temporally variable information for precision farming. Remote sensing imagery for precision farming can be getting either through satellite-based sensors or CIR video digital cameras on board small aircraft.
Technologies for Horticulture precision farming:
In order to collect & utilize information successfully, it is very important for anyone considering precision farming to be familiar with the present technological tools available. The vast array of tools includes hardware, software & the best management practices.
In-season observations of crop conditions can contain: Weed patches, Insect or fungal infestation, crop tissue nutrient position, flooded & eroded areas using a Global positioning system receiver on an all-terrain vehicle or in a backpack, a location can be connected with observations, production it easier to return to the same location for treatment. These observations also can be helpful later when clearing up variations in yield maps.
The adoption of Horticulture precision agriculture requires the joint development of management skills & pertinent information databases. Effectively using information requires a farmer to have an apparent idea of the business’ objectives & crucial information necessary to make decisions. An effective information organization requires more than recordkeeping analysis tools or GIS. It requires an entrepreneurial attitude toward education & experimentation.
Yield monitoring and mapping:
In highly mechanized systems, grain yield monitors continuously measure & record the flow of grain in the clean-grain elevator of a combine. When linked with a GPS receiver, yield monitors can supply the data necessary for yield maps. Yield measurements are necessary for making sound management decisions. However, soil, landscape & other environmental factors should be weighed when interpreting a yield map. Used accurately, yield information provides a major reaction in determining the effects of managed inputs such as fertilizer amendments, seed, pesticides & cultural practices including tillage & irrigation. Since yield measurements from a single year could be heavily influenced by weather, it is always advisable to examine yield data for several years together with data from extreme weather years that helps in pinpointing whether the observed yields are due to organizational or climate-induced.
Grid soil sampling and variable-rate fertilizer (VRT) application:
Under normal conditions, the recommended soil sampling process is to take samples from portions of fields that are no more than 20 acres in area. Soil cores taken from random locations in the sampling area are combined & sent to a laboratory to be tested. Crop advisors make fertilizer request recommendations from the soil test information for the 20-acre area. Grid soil sampling uses similar principles of soil sampling but increases the intensity of sampling. For example, a 20-acre sampling area would have ten samples using a 2-acre grid sampling method compared to one sample in the traditional recommendations. Soil samples collected in a systematic grid have location information that allows the data to be mapped. The goal of grid soil sampling is to produce a map of nutrient requirement, called an application map. Grid soil samples are analyzed in the laboratory, & an interpretation of crop nutrient needs is made for each soil sample. Then the fertilizer request map is plotted using the entire set of soil samples. The application map is encumbered into a computer mounted on a variable-rate fertilizer spreader. The computer uses the purpose map & a GPS receiver to direct a product-delivery controller that changes the amount and kind of fertilizer product, according to the application map.
Future strategy for Horticulture precision farming:
Future strategy for adoption of precision agriculture in India should think about the problem of land fragmentation, lack of highly sophisticated, practical centers for precision agriculture, specific software for precision agriculture, the poor economic condition of common Indian farmer, etc. Horticulture precision agriculture in small farms is that individual farms will be treated as if they were organization zones within a field & that some centralized entity will provide information to the individual farmers on a co-operative basis. The difficulty of the high cost of the positioning system for small fields can be solved by ‘dead reckoning system’. The dead reckoning system, appropriate for small regularly shaped fields, relies on infield markers, such as foam to maintain the consistent application. This approach provided farmers with a robust & credible method for making decisions about the spatial management of their fields. Nature of crop & weed varies from zone to zone, country to country. So the development of software & hardware for the crop and weeds of India, site-specific tillage technique, etc.
Postharvest process management of Horticulture precision farming:
The postharvest procedure begins as soon as the crop is harvested. Improper handling of the crop during this stage can be detrimental to quality. Horticulture precision agriculture applications of postharvest process management use sensors to monitor conditions in curing or storage to achieve the optimum parameters & preserve quality. Automatic controls are used to regulate temperature, humidity, & fresh-air delivery. By continuously monitoring the curing or handling conditions, adjustments can be completed that would not be possible with the conventional method of manual control. As in the other facets of Horticulture precision agriculture, the feedback control loop is a critical element. By continuously monitoring the state of the crop in storage or in curing, & analyzing the data in real time, adjustments can be made in storage or curing parameters to preserve or enhance quality.
The approach required to be adopted by the policymakers to promote Horticulture Precision farming at the farm level:
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- Promote the Horticulture precision farming technology for the detailed progressive farmers who have sufficient risk-bearing capacity as this technology may need capital investment.
- Identification of niche areas for the support of crop specific organic farming.
- Support the farmers to adopt water accounting protocols at the farm level.
- Promote the use of micro-level irrigation systems & water saving techniques.
- Encourage the study of spatial & temporal variability of the input parameters using primary data at the field level.
- Evolve a policy for capable transfer of technology to the farmers.
- Supply complete technical backup support to the farmers to develop pilots or models, which can be replicated on a large scale.
- Policy maintains on procurement prices, in the formulation of cooperative groups or self-help groups.
- Designation of export promotion zones with necessary infrastructure such as cold storage, processing & grading facilities.
Advantages of Horticulture precision farming:
- Global positioning system allows fields to be surveyed with ease.
- Yield & soil characteristics can be mapped.
- Nonuniform fields can be sub-divided into smaller plots, according to their specific necessities.
- Provides opportunities for better resource management & so could reduce wastage.
- Minimizes the risk to the environment, mostly with respect to nitrate leaching & groundwater contamination via the optimization of agrochemical products.
Disadvantages Horticulture precision farming:
The techniques are still under development & so it is important to take specialist advice before making expensive decisions.
- Initial capital costs may be high & so it should be seen as a long-term investment.
- It may take some years before you have sufficient data to fully implement the system.
- Extremely demanding work, particularly collecting & then analyzing the data.
Read: Hydroponic Growing System.
The first Image courtesy: Directorate Of Horticulture And Plantation Crops Agriculture Department, Government Of Tamilnadu.