The Precision Farming Primer  

© 1999
Precision Farming Primer

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The Precision Farming Primer is based on Joseph K. Berry's popular "Inside the GIS Toolbox" column published in the @gInnovator newsletter and @gOnline electronic forum from 1993 through 1999.  It uncovers the potential and pitfalls of the rapidly evolving field of precision farming¾ not only what precision farming can and cannot do, but also how it does it.

The Precision Farming Process

Precision farming involves doing the right thing, in the right way, at the right place and time.  It isn't just a bunch of pretty maps for visceral viewing, but mapped data and a set of new procedures linking these data to appropriate management actions.

Content and Organization

The Precision Farming Primer discuss the innovative software applications and their role in precision farming and site-based management.  The global positioning system (GPS) positions a tractor within a few feet anywhere in a field.  On-the-fly data collection devices provide continuous data logging of crop yield and variable rate control units alter the amount of farm inputs as needed.  Working in concert, these intelligent devices and implements (IDI) effectively apply seeding rates, fertilizers and herb/insecticides, among other inputs, precisely where they are needed for both economic and environmental gains.  Geographic information systems (GIS) are used to store, display and analyze these data.  It provides the link between crop productivity and field conditions used in constructing "prescription maps" for effective planning and management of farm activities.  Of the three underlying technologies (GPS/GIS/IDI), the extension of GIS from simply pretty maps to map analysis is the least understood, yet holds the greatest promise to revolutionize farming practices.

The Precision Farming Primer describes a comprehensive approach to precision farming consisting of four parts.  The early discussions are concerned with the nature, accuracy and application of the two types of spatial data used in precision farming¾ continuously logged data, such as yield measurements and discrete point data, such as soil samples.  The third part of the book discusses the procedures of mapped data analysis used to derive relationships between farm outputs (yield map) and the inputs (maps of soil properties, nutrient, terrain and other factors).  The final portion of the book investigates spatial modeling approaches that use site-specific relationships to determine appropriate management actions.  The book is available for online viewing at  CD disk and hardcopy versions with tutorial software and exercises are planned for spring 1999.

Intended Audience

This book is ideal for farmers, crop consultants, farm input advisors, technology developers and scientists who are interested in a basic understanding of the concerns and considerations surrounding precision farming.  The concepts are presented in an informal manner designed so the reader can grasp the broad issues and then delve into more detail, even to the algorithm level.

About the Author

Joseph K. Berry is president of Berry & Associates // Spatial Information Systems, Inc.(BASIS), consultants and software developers in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology.  He has authored over two hundred papers on GIS, and since 1976, presented hundreds of workshops on its implementation and applications.  He is a columnist for GeoWorld magazine and Successful Farming’s @gInnovator newsletter, as well as the author of the popular books Beyond Mapping and Spatial Reasoning.  Formerly, Joe was an Associate Professor and the Associate Dean at Yale University's Graduate School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and is currently a special faculty member at Colorado State University.  He holds a bachelor's degree in forestry, a master's degree in business administration and a doctorate emphasizing remote sensing and land use planning.

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