Sreekala Bajwa 2015-02-23 23:29:58
As an academician, my primary involvement in food production is through research and education. To feed the world in 2050, our research and educational efforts should focus on increasing food production with limited resources under the changing climate, minimizing food losses and wastage, and addressing poverty and policy issues. Precision agriculture is critical for increasing food production with limited water, energy and land resources, and for climate adaptation and mitigation. However, international development will a play key role in increasing the efficiency of agricultural production by scaling and adapting agriculture technologies to meet the local needs across the world. Precision Agriculture Precision agriculture is the application of engineering, agricultural, information, and communication technologies to agriculture to increase production efficiency and reduce risk. It involves gathering data relevant to agricultural production, mining information from the data, and making informed decisions to improve production efficiency and to lower risk by managing fields for the conditions that already exist or are anticipated. Such decisions may include what, when, where, and how much of various inputs such as seeds and crops, tillage, water, fertilizer, pesticides, other chemicals, and other cultivation practices would be optimal. Precision agriculture uses information on weather, soil, topography, field history, crop genetics, commodity markets, and long-term climate trends to identify short-term and longterm practices to produce nutritious and healthy food with limited resources. In regions with large-scale, highly mechanized, and technologically advanced agriculture, precision agriculture helps to customize management practices by spatially varying input applications to match the specific needs of different areas within a field. This strategy reduces input losses, increases input efficiency, and results in major economic and environmental benefits. Where farm sizes are small and agriculture is less mechanized, precision agriculture can help to develop the best management practices for individual fields or groups of fields. For example, knowledge of soil type and fertility can be used to develop fertilizer application regimes. Soil, terrain, and rainfall data can be used to develop decisions on planting rate, planting and harvesting times, and fertilizer application strategies. Knowledge of climate patterns can help in identifying the best crops or varieties to plant, and whether or not to invest in an irrigation system. Information and communication technology (ICT) such as agricultural informatics for converting data to decisions is a critical part of precision agriculture. In the past two decades, many technologies have been developed to gather data on crops, soils, terrain and weather, process data into information and decisions, and communicate this information/decisions to end users. The farm machinery available in developed countries today has the capability to read maps and integrate crop sensors to spatially vary input applications to match crop needs. Many of these machines can also relay information back to decision makers using telemetry. Irrigation systems have the ability to integrate crop water sensors to vary water application. Cell phones can be used to fly an unmanned aerial vehicle over a field to collect data, or communicate important information to farmers. Major seed companies have been developing smart planting systems that will select the crop variety and planting rate on-thego to suit the needs of a specific field. ICT has improved agriculture globally. A good example is the success of cell phone applications in African and Indian agriculture. International Development While very efficient agricultural technologies are available in some parts of the world, many other regions are still using inefficient practices and labor-intensive manually powered tools. The agricultural research and education needs of developing countries that we repeatedly hear include development of farm equipment and irrigation systems suitable for these regions to enhance their production efficiency, production practices to conserve and protect resources, preparation for uncertain and extreme weather events, storage and transportation systems that reduce food spoilage, and processing facilities that convert perishable commodities into products with long shelf life. International development through global collaboration and translational research is essential to addressing the global food challenge. Scaling precision agricultural technologies to suit the needs of the developing world is guaranteed to increase food production efficiency. I propose that we, the researchers and educators who work in food production and processing, devote some of our time to international development, and that we involve our students in these endeavors. International development based on precision agriculture will protect resources, contribute to mitigating climate change by reducing the carbon, nitrogen, and water footprints of agriculture, adapt agriculture to new climate realities, and increase production efficiency. Conclusion Collaborative research to scale precision agricultural technologies for different regions of the world and international development in all areas of agriculture are vital for food security in the future. We should also focus on educating the next generation on the food and resource realities of the world we live in, and instill a passion for addressing the needs of our fellow human beings. ASABE Member Sreekala Bajwa, Professor and Chair, Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, North Dakota State University, Fargo, USA; email@example.com. Top photo courtesy of USDA-ARS. Mid-page photo Mcpics | Dreamstime.
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