Precision ag an evolving scienceMore than 250 farmers attending summit in Jamestown this week are learning the latest technology and trends in using satellite and Internet technology in agriculture. The Precision Agriculture Action Summit 2012 began Monday at the North Dakota Farmers Union Conference Center and continues today. The summit is attended by producers from North Dakota, Canada, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
More than 250 farmers attending summit in Jamestown this week are learning the latest technology and trends in using satellite and Internet technology in agriculture.
The Precision Agriculture Action Summit 2012 began Monday at the North Dakota Farmers Union Conference Center and continues today. The summit is attended by producers from North Dakota, Canada, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.
“This technology will blow your doors off,” said Lowell Catlett, futurist and dean of the college of agriculture at New Mexico State University. “This precision agriculture is about letting these engineers tell you how to be more efficient but also about letting these networks tell you things.”
Precision agriculture uses satellite images and GPS information determines the proper applications of farm chemicals, seeds and fertilizers for each portion of a field. It is an evolving science.
“We’ve been in this for 18 years and we’re still seeing advances almost every day,” said Lanny Faleide, chief executive officer for Agri ImaGIS/Satshot of Fargo.
He said the systems are currently designed to control the application of fertilizers and herbicides.
“The main thing is variable rate application,” he said. “But for this to work you need to know what the soils are doing. We use the satellite to look at the field and determine what parts need to be addressed and use that information to apply chemicals, seeds and fertilizer.”
Faleide said the satellite images and global positioning systems are the high-tech way of accomplishing a basic goal.
“We’re putting the right product at the right place at the right time,” he said.
That reduces cost to the farmer and the amount of farm chemicals entering the environment.
“This is very important to family farmers and ranchers,” said Woody Barth, president of North Dakota Farmers Union. “It is also environmentally friendly as it reduces double spraying and over fertilization. That helps the farmer’s bottom line but also helps the environment.”
Dr. Paul Gunderson, director of the Dakota Precision Ag Center at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake, said precision agriculture is still an advancing technology.
“It is clear, based on the research, the technology has come of age and does work,” he said. “Now the challenge is to implement it in production agriculture.”
Gunderson said implement dealers will need precision agriculture technicians in the near future.
“The rate of adoption is speedy on the high plains,” he said. “Farmers in this region are way ahead of the national average in adopting the technology.”
He said the first step for farmers wanting to implement precision agriculture is to develop prescription maps of the land.
“You identify the soil variations and identify the nutrients the soil needs for the maximum yield,” Gunderson said.
Those prescription maps can be developed by a third-party contractor or by farmers if they are capable of dealing with the technology. He said he had talked to two families whose high school-age children were developing the maps for the family farms.
The current developments in precision agriculture are just the start, according to Faleide.
“The ability to track from the combine to the bin to the elevator to the processor to the grocer is coming,” he said. “That hasn’t taken hold yet.”
By maintaining such records with produce, the identity of the farmer and the location of the farm field could be displayed on the package of food.
“The agriculture industry is changing,” Faleide said. “We’re not in the commodity business anymore. We need to brand our food as to its source. It’s a win-win if we can do that along with more efficient production.”
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at email@example.com