May. 23, 2018
Crop scouting: more tech to use less
In the course of crop growth, proliferation of weeds, diseases and attacks by insects and pests are common. Farmers, therefore, need to pay special attention to the health of their crops. In the past, farmers must scout their crops with the naked eye and on foot, taking considerably longer to do so. Now, many farmers scout using a new generation of precise digital tools, advanced analytics, and powerful imaging devices, which help them make the most informed decisions possible.
It’s hard to exaggerate the importance of soil health. Water use, pesticide and fertilizer use, and overall crop health are all tied to the soil. Even slight alterations of mineral levels, structure, air, water, and microorganisms can impact a farmer’s harvest. Managing soil is infinitely complex.
Another recent innovation involves installing ground-mounted sensors around different types of produce crops. These can measure various climate indicators, such as soil moisture, temperature and barometric pressure, while also evaluating crop stress indicators. This allows farmers to make real-time decisions about the health of their crops, such as whether to water or add fertilizer.
Every year manufacturers unveil farming equipment with more sophisticated technology. Smart tractors record yield data and measure crop-loss, and irrigation systems track water use. These systems often work in isolation, generating enormous volumes of data. The key challenge for software engineers is turning this deluge of information into insights for farmers. Connecting this vast world of sensors, tools, and machines allows growers the opportunity to become more efficient.
As reported, the precision agriculture-oriented software market is growing rapidly. According to a latest report by Markets and Markets, the compound annual growth rate of the market is expected to reach 14.03% from 2016 to 2022, and in 2022, the market will reach US $1.1887 billion. The yield monitoring software, one of the most popular application softwares in precision agriculture, is expected to capture a larger market share in the future. The yield monitor software provides growers with information on weather conditions, soil, and fertilizer applications, which plays a critical role in understand yield variation, and help growers achieve maximized yield.
Digital farming technology: protecting crops around the world
For many farmers around the world, crop protection is an ever-evolving challenge. When it comes to crop protection, having the right information at the right time is critically important. This is the case for all farmers, but for smallholders in developing nations, this can be particularly challenging.
Farmers, researchers, and other leaders of modern agriculture are creating new and technically sophisticated solutions to help protect crops responsibly and effectively. Software, mobile computing, and data analytics are no longer the sole domain of Europe and North America—crop protection is becoming more technical and data-driven for smallholder farmers.
For example, in an effort to quickly and seamlessly share knowledge and best practices, farmers in the developing world are using mobile apps to support their crop protection. An organization named Plantwise has built a powerful platform to help facilitate this exchange of information amongst farmers and agronomists. With only a smartphone or tablet, farmers in Africa, Asia, and South America can record pest and disease data, receive regional agronomic advice, and chat with knowledgeable experts.
In Ghana, during the 2016 outbreak of fall armyworm, these datasets helped produce the first evidence of this new and growing challenge. Data collected on the mobile apps allowed scientists to prove that for the first time, both species of armyworm had established in Africa. Without this critical insight, farmers in Ghana might have misidentified fall armyworm for another pest.
The sharing of best practices, agronomic tips, and technology is key to helping smallholders improve their crop protection methods.
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