Precision agriculture technologies growing in U.S.

WASHINGTON — Information-based production (precision agriculture) technologies have seen rapid growth in the United States, according to a May 2 article on Amber Waves, an on-line publication of the Economic Research Service (E.R.S.) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The advancing technologies allow farmers to more closely monitor farm-production management decisions and possible cost savings. The four most commonly used precision agriculture technologies are: yield mapping, soil mapping, auto-guidance machinery steering, and variable rate technologies (V.R.T.).

The first three are more developed technologies because they may be used independently of each other, according to E.R.S. researchers. Yield maps are created by harvesters producing location-specific crop yield data that report growing conditions during the previous year. The data then may be compiled into a map. Global positioning system (G.P.S.) technology provides information on soil-related growing conditions on corn farms, which is then compiled into a map. Nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous levels are commonly mapped, as well as soil-type and micronutrients, the researchers said.