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Precision Farming
Precision Farming

From NASA's Visible Earth: “These three false-color images demonstrate some of the applications of remote sensing in precision farming. The goal of precision farming is to improve farmers’ profits and harvest yields while reducing the negative impacts of farming on the environment that come from over-application of chemicals. The images were acquired by the Daedalus sensor aboard a NASA aircraft flying over the Maricopa Agricultural Center in Arizona. The top image shows the color variations determined by crop density (also referred to as Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, or NDVI), where dark blues and greens indicate lush vegetation and reds show areas of bare soil. The middle image is a map of water deficit, derived from the Daedalus’ reflectance and temperature measurements. Greens and blues indicate wet soil and reds are dry soil. The bottom image shows where crops are under serious stress, as is particularly the case in Fields 120 and 119 (indicated by red and yellow pixels). These fields were due to be irrigated the following day.”

If you'd like to know more, head to Earth Observatory where you can learn about how this new agricultural practice may limit the environmental impact of farming. For example, rather than “treat a field of crops as one homogeneous unit” and consequently “applying fertilizer evenly across the whole field,” farmers using remote sensors, GIS and GPS tools can selectively target areas with just the right amount of fertilizers and at the right time. The same goes for water, seeds, pesticides and herbicides.

So in other words, far from the genteel picture of rural life — “a hot summer afternoon in the country, peace, forgotten values, simple pleasures” — farms are no longer populated by country bumpkins but rather 21st century hyper-technophiles.

  • Anonymous
  • July 20, 2006 at 4:37:00 PM CDT
  • Try the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Extension Office (extended from the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences).

    When I was an ag student, friends from other disciplines always made fun of the "hick" majors in ACES. Little did they know that I learned how to operate a gene gun and satellite-guided tractor in my first two weeks of Crop Science classes!

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