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Precision Agriculture in the 21st Century: Geospatial and Information Technologies in Crop Management
subsequent processing of raw imagery. Georectification and data volume reduction are needed for most applications of these data. To be useful for precision agriculture, these data may need to be further processed into images depicting crop-relevant conditions, such as greenness or soil moisture. Public and private roles in data management and processing should be balanced to protect public interests while supporting private initiatives.
High-speed data connectivity is needed in rural areas to support precision agriculture. Agricultural organizations and agencies should work collaboratively with public agencies and industries to ensure adequate rural connectivity.
Precision agricultural techniques are data intensive and geographically dispersed. The interrelated network of agricultural service providers and producers will increase the need for data transfer capabilities. The current reliance on manual transport of data is inconvenient, expensive, and prone to data loss. Telephone networks represent the most likely source of electronic communication in rural areas. The Telecommunications Deregulation Act of 1996 allows major telecommunications providers to concentrate their services in the most profitable sectors. In the near term, this could diminish the potential for telecommunication services in rural areas.
Strong federal-state-industry partnerships will be required to meet the national goal to provide high-speed data connectivity to all American schools by 2000. State extension programs should become involved in these partnerships to ensure that American farmsteads have the communications technology necessary for precision agriculture. Agricultural organizations should be aware of both the need for a better rural communication system and the potential for degradation of the current service under the deregulated market.
IMPLICATIONS OF PRECISION AGRICULTURE
A committee objective was to explore what impact the adoption of precision agriculture technologies would have on economic, social, and environmental variables. Because precision agriculture is in early stages of adoption, a rigorous analysis of its impacts and development of conclusions is not feasible. The committee identified four policy issues that should be examined in greater detail when (and if) precision agriculture becomes widely accepted.
It is difficult to generalize about the expected adoption process for precision agriculture, because precision agriculture is a suite of technologies and practices used to improve agricultural decision making rather than a single technology. Producers, consultants, input suppliers, and researchers will use these tools in