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Digital agriculture to help farmers manage climate uncertaintyqrcode

Jan. 28, 2016

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Jan. 28, 2016
A European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) study in the journal Climate Change finds that a two degrees Celsius rise in global temperature is still expected to lead to a significant increase in floods and droughts in Europe. But new digital agriculture tools could keep farmers ahead of future mishaps no matter which regions are struck.

In the JRC study floods are projected to increase in coastal parts of Norway and southern Sweden, but to decrease significantly in parts of Finland, Russia and Sweden. At the same time, more intense droughts are expected in southern Europe, the southern UK and Ireland, due to lower levels of rainfall — and also expected to last longer, especially in Spain.

The extreme flooding seen in Ireland and the north of England recently is a testament to the disastrous impact and unpredictability our changing climate will bring to Europe’s agricultural landscape. In an interview for the BBC’s Farming Today Radio Programme on 19 January 2016, David Fischoff, Chief Scientist from the Climate Corporation® (a division of Monsanto®), discussed the importance of data insights fed directly to farmers.

An application on a farmer’s smartphone or tablet that forecasts what will happen on individual fields, based on data from the farmer, local weather predictions and digital surveillance, could be very important in ensuring healthy harvests and just-in-time application of fertilisers and crop protection products. This type of analysis is more accurate than subjective monitoring and guesswork, according to Fischoff.

But should an app tell a farmer what to do? Not necessarily. In terms of visualising the health of a farm it is very hard to see all aspects of cultivated land. Take maize, for example: it’s hard to see what’s happening from the edge of a field what’s happening in the middle. A farming app complements the farmer’s own instincts and can provide an early alert warning if necessary, e.g. if the farmer doesn’t have enough nitrogen on his or her fields to hit their targets. Then they can adapt accordingly.

The idea is that the farmer gets an early assessment of how crops might get on and a range of probable outcomes as the season progresses. Optimising inputs while maximising outputs for more sustainable agronomic practices is the goal.

In Europe, the Climate Corporation is currently testing a digital-agriculture approach to farming at DEKALB® Technology Centre sites throughout Europe. The company hopes to be able to roll out data-based services to customers in Europe soon.

In the US, the Climate Corporation has just released (26th January 2016) a new FieldView Drive™ device for farmers that connects to a tractor, for example, and uses Bluetooth® technology to wirelessly map a farmer’s data onto an iPad®. Farmers can stay up-to-date on field operations even when they’re not around: through text alerts, email reports or a remote interface.

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