technologies will reduce environmental spillovers from agriculture. For example, if increased precision in application rates increases crop yields sufficiently, then producers may have an incentive to increase rather than decrease application rates. Thus, research explicitly aimed at elucidating the environmental effects of precision agriculture technologies should also be a priority (Larson et al., 1997).
Decision support system models force consideration of factors and interactions affecting the entire system. Therefore, work oriented toward developing such models requires institutional arrangements that cut across strict disciplinary lines. The relationships represented in such models are also inherently multivariate, lending themselves more toward on-farm research than plot-based studies. Reorienting research priorities toward model development and validation could thus alter institutional incentives for more holistic, farm-based, decision-oriented research efforts.
In the twenty-first century agricultural professionals using information technologies will play an increasingly important role in crop production and natural resource management. It is imperative that educational institutions modify their curricula and teaching methods to educate and train students and professionals in the interdisciplinary approaches underlying precision agriculture.
For use of precision agriculture to become widespread, producers and prospective employees will need general computing skills and technical literacy. Specific skills needed by service specialists, such as high-tech equipment operators and GIS or GPS technicians, could be taught both through traditional four-year programs and vocational training. Consultants, system integrators, and others with an understanding of how to develop and apply precision agriculture will likely need postgraduate education. Successful training of users of information technologies will require disciplinary depth (i.e., agronomy, agricultural engineering, and soils) and analytic skills (i.e., spatial analysis and crop modeling), that is best provided by long-term education with emphasis on interdisciplinary synthesis. The mind-set that is needed to ensure the beneficial use of precision agriculture should be fostered in educational institutions, particularly in elements of programs that provide an understanding of technologies in a broader context. While some institutions have developed undergraduate courses and extension education programs in precision agriculture technologies, a more systematic reappraisal of their programs is needed.
The content and form of agricultural education and extension are evolving under a number of pressures. A recent National Research Council report documented problems with the current land grant system and provided recommendations for sweeping reforms (National Research Council, 1996a). Many of these