How Does GIS Benefit Agriculture?

Applied Tech Review | Friday, July 30, 2021

Farmers nowadays rely on sophisticated agriculture technology to save time and money.

FREMONT, CA: Since crops are location-based, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are handy for farmers. For instance, farmers employ precision GPS technology in the field to conserve fertilizer. Additionally, satellites and drones collect information about vegetation, topography, and weather from the sky.

All of this information can be incorporated into agriculture maps to aid in decision-making. Below are some additional agricultural technology examples.

Machine Data—Precision Farming

Farmers use precision agriculture to minimize the amount of fertilizer applied to the field.

Farmers not only save money on fertilizer, but they also protect the environment from the excessive application. This is because a significant amount of excess fertilizer typically ends up in streams and rivers due to runoff. Precision farming ensures that fertilizer is applied only where it is required. It is location-specific.

Sensors mounted on a machine collect data about the crops. Additionally, the GPS provides farmers with their precise location on the field. Precision farming then applies fertilizer at a variable rate to nutrient-deficient areas.

Precision farmers can save between $2 and $15 per acre. This is an excellent investment over time.

Satellites and Drones—Data from the Sky

Apart from sunlight and nutrients, plants require an adequate supply of water. Crop growth is impacted by an excess of water (flooding) or a water deficiency (drought).

Satellite technology collects real-time microwave energy from the Earth's surface. This enables more accurate forecasting of crop production and the monitoring of drought and flooding.

For instance, Landsat satellites use indices such as the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to determine the greenness of vegetation.

Drones can inspect crop health and identify areas of plant stress from the air. Farmers can make informed decisions about nitrogen application and yield monitoring. Farmers can employ precision watering sensors because they are aware of the areas that require the most water. They can help control pest spread by identifying critical intervention zones.

A small drone can assist farmers in making some effective decisions.

Online data—Mapping in real-time

CropScape is a mapping application developed by the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Services (NASS) that enables farmers to obtain acreage estimates for various crop types.

Farmers can use the application to determine which crops are growing where and in what quantities. Additionally, the government has used CropScape to address food security, land-cover change, and pesticide regulation.

On a global scale, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations' AgroMap uses its global spatial database of agricultural land-use statistics to segment primary food crops.

For large-scale planning, online tools such as plant hardiness define appropriate climatic growing areas for various crop types. Similarly, the first GIS data set was the Canadian Land Inventory. Its objective was to categorize Canada's varying agricultural production potential.

Today's farmers must know much more than just what to seed–soils, weeds, nutrients, weather, insects, disease, machinery, and climate. These emerging trends provide farmers with the location intelligence required to complete tasks efficiently and with excellent knowledge.

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