cooperatives; seed, fertilizer, chemical, and equipment dealers; aerial and satellite remote sensing companies, and software systems providers. Information technology will generate valuable data not only for the producer but for others in agricultural production and marketing. Protection of a producer's data and its availability to others will influence the effectiveness of precision agriculture.
Intellectual property rights and data privacy protections are evolving areas of judicial and legislative activity. Existing legal precedents and contract forms for protecting a producer's data will need to be adapted for precision agriculture. Producer and industry associations have been developing legal templates and forms for producers to use in asserting ownership over precision agriculture data. It will be important to find a balance between protecting individual privacy and securing benefits to multiple users. Leadership by public agencies, such as the extension service, will be needed to develop legal instruments and language to clarify rights and responsibilities of data use and dissemination to producers, crop consultants, and others involved in the data stream.
Data collected for use at the subfield and field level have additional value for research, testing, evaluation, and marketing when assembled into regional databases. Mechanisms are needed to create and use this value, including data collection and transfer standards; institutions for collecting, managing, or networking data; and policies to facilitate data sharing and access while protecting proprietary interests and confidentiality.
The collection and analysis of georeferenced data from individual farm fields provides an unprecedented opportunity for gaining new insights into the functioning of agricultural systems. Such data sets can provide competitive advantage for private companies and be an invaluable resource for producers and public sector researchers. However, individual farmers may not readily agree to freely contribute their farm's data to a larger pool of data. Commercial companies may not readily release or share data sets they have assembled with universities or the USDA, even though the data might benefit and facilitate research across broader areas. Public agencies, such as the extension service, will be needed to provide leadership in this process by promoting models and templates for data sharing, providing examples of the benefits of sharing and aggregating data, and providing protection for data privacy rights.
One can easily visualize significant benefits from compiling and analyzing data sets generated from precision agriculture. However, care must be taken to ensure the completeness of such data sets so that they will be sufficient to address present-day problems and questions that have yet to be formulated. Because some of these data sources serve more than agricultural purposes (weather, geographic information, and global positioning data), they have their own set of standards. Other data structures (variable-rate technologies, on-the-go sensors, and yield monitors) will be totally focused on agricultural applications and will need to be interfaced with nonagricultural sources. To facilitate this process, standardized