Precision Agriculture in the 21st Century

Geospatial and Information Technologies in Crop Management

Committee on Assessing Crop Yield: Site-Specific Farming, Information Systems, and Research Opportunities

Board on Agriculture

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.
1997



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Precision Agriculture in the 21st Century Geospatial and Information Technologies in Crop Management Committee on Assessing Crop Yield: Site-Specific Farming, Information Systems, and Research Opportunities Board on Agriculture National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1997

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NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS • 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. • Washington, D.C. 20418 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. This report has been prepared with funds provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Re- search, Education, and Economics, under agreement number 59-0700-4-139, and by the U.S. Depart- ment of Energy, Lockheed Martin Idaho Technologies Company, Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Precision agriculture in the 21st century : geospatial and information technologies in crop management / Committee on Assessing Crop Yield— Site-Specific Farming, Information Systems, and Research Opportunities, Board on Agriculture, National Research Council. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-309-05893-7 (cloth) 1. Precision farming. I. National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Assessing Crop Yield: Site-Specific Farming, Information Systems, and Research Opportunities. S494.5.P73P73 1997 338.1’6—dc21 97-45268 CIP Additional copies of this report are available from National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, D.C. 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu. Printed in the United States of America Copyright 1997 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

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COMMITTEE ON ASSESSING CROP YIELD: SITE-SPECIFIC FARMING, INFORMATION SYSTEMS, AND RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES STEVEN T. SONKA, Chair, University of Illinois, Urbana MARVIN E. BAUER, University of Minnesota, St. Paul EDWARD T. CHERRY, FMC Corporation, Washington, D.C. JOHN W. COLBURN, JR., Crop Technology, Inc., Houston, Texas RALPH E. HEIMLICH, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Washington, D.C. DEBORAH A. JOSEPH, University of Wisconsin, Madison JOHN B. LEBOEUF, Fordel, Inc., Mendota, California ERIK LICHTENBERG, University of Maryland, College Park DAVID A. MORTENSEN, University of Nebraska, Lincoln STEPHEN W. SEARCY, Texas A&M University, College Station SUSAN L. USTIN, University of California, Davis STEPHEN J. VENTURA, University of Wisconsin, Madison Consultant JUDY DIXON, Editor MARCIA MCCANN, Editor Staff MARY JANE LETAW, Project Officer JULIEMARIE GOUPIL, Project Assistant iii

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BOARD ON AGRICULTURE DALE E. BAUMAN, Chair, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York JOHN M. ANTLE, Montana State University, Bozeman SANDRA S. BATIE, Michigan State University, East Lansing MAY R. BERENBAUM, University of Illinois, Urbana LEONARD S. BULL, North Carolina State University, Raleigh WILLIAM B. DELAUDER, Delaware State University, Dover ANTHONY S. EARL, Quarles & Brady Law Firm, Madison, Wisconsin ESSEX E. FINNEY, Jr., U.S. Department of Agriculture, Mitchelleville, Maryland CORNELIA FLORA, Iowa State University, Ames GEORGE R. HALLBERG, University of Iowa, Iowa City RICHARD R. HARWOOD, Michigan State University, East Lansing T. KENT KIRK, University of Wisconsin, Madison HARLEY W. MOON, Iowa State University, Ames WILLIAM L. OGREN, University of Illinois, Urbana GEORGE E. SEIDEL, Jr., Colorado State University, Fort Collins JOHN W. SUTTIE, University of Wisconsin, Madison JAMES J. ZUICHES, Washington State University, Pullman Staff PAUL GILMAN, Executive Director MICHAEL J. PHILLIPS, Director iv

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Preface The land grant university system and the Agricultural Research Service have been enormously successful at creating and transferring a knowledge base to lo- cal farming communities for production of large quantities of crops at low cost. Recently, external influences such as global trade, environmental concerns, and consumer preferences have been creating new pressures for the agricultural in- dustry. The need to accommodate production and marketing changes has put our agricultural research institutions in a new and unfamiliar setting. Information technologies can facilitate a response to market and societal pres- sures. Techniques are available for making precise measurements and continuously updating field conditions. However, our ability to acquire data through tools such as on-the-go sensors, yield monitors, and geographically referenced databases has sur- passed our ability to interpret this data. Even more importantly, information that is adequate today may be insufficient to meet tomorrow’s needs of producers, agri- business managers, and society. Our universities and laboratories will need to radically alter their approaches to accommodate this information overflow. For this reason the Research, Education, and Economics agencies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with additional support from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (operated by Lockheed Martin Idaho Technologies Company), requested that the National Research Council’s Board on Agriculture convene a study committee to explore the potential for developing, coordinating, and using these information-handling tools for research, on-farm applications, and formulation of agricultural policies. Questions ad- dressed by the committee included: • How can evolving technologies aid producer decision making in agricul- tural crop production? • What are the incentives for adoption and barriers to implementation of these information technologies? v

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vi PREFACE • What are the environmental, economic, and social implications of preci- sion agriculture? • What are the appropriate roles for the public and private sectors in im- proving and disseminating these technologies? Early on in its deliberations, the committee identified the scope of its report to include adoption and effectiveness of information technologies (the Internet, for example) that affect operations in the farm field. The committee was con- vinced that information technologies should optimize decision making, recogniz- ing that a producer must manage for multiple goals. The committee adopted an approach that could accommodate numerous aspects of crop management that are interrelated and vary in time and space. Despite being challenged by a lack of comprehensive data, the committee drew on its collective experience, knowledgeable opinions of experienced indi- viduals, and reasoned judgment to develop many of its findings. The committee used multiple sources of information, such as national meetings and a literature review, to aid its deliberations. Invited experts (producers, input suppliers, crop consultants, and university scientists) provided their input on a number of topics: • Potential of information-intensive management of crops; • Rural development and size-neutrality issues; • Producer perspectives on adoption and limitations of precision agriculture; • Changes in relationships between producers, suppliers, and markets; and • Environmental implications of precision agriculture. In this report, the committee recognized the potential for precision agricul- ture to fundamentally alter decision making on the farm. The basic agronomic knowledge necessary to support new farm management systems will need to be generated in new laboratories—on the farm. Research partners will have an op- portunity to study relationships among crops, weather, pests, and soil biology in real time. This report offers a new paradigm for research, development, and trans- fer of information technologies. The committee chose to take a cautious but optimistic view, recognizing that some important questions will need to be answered before precision agriculture demonstrates the benefits that would justify widespread adoption. The future is not clear, and structural changes already are occurring on farms and in service industries. However, information technologies are expected to be powerful tools that will enable us to learn from internal on-farm processes. It is the committee’s hope that this report will provide the reader insights on the future of information technologies in crop management and appropriate roles for the public sector. STEVEN T. SONKA, Chair Committee on Assessing Crop Yield: Site-Specific Farming, Information Systems, and Research Opportunities

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Contents EXECUTIVE SUMMARY .................................................................................. 1 A Fundamental Paradigm Shift for Agricultural Research Systems, 3 The Value of Information Will Intensify Within Production Agriculture, 6 Uncertainty of Public Role, 8 Implications of Precision Agriculture, 11 Adoption Patterns, 11 Farm Structure, 12 Rural Employment, 13 Environmental Quality, 13 Potentials For Precision Agriculture, 14 1 DIMENSIONS OF PRECISION AGRICULTURE ................................... 16 Precision Agriculture and Agricultural Management, 17 Geographic Context: Scales in the Spatial Spiral, 19 Subfield Management, 21 Beyond Subfield Management, 21 Data Warehousing, 22 Landscape Analysis, 23 Regional Management, 23 Enabling Technologies, 26 Georeferenced Information, 28 Global Positioning System, 28 Geographic Information Systems and Mapping Software, 30 Yield Mapping Systems, 31 Variable-Rate Technologies, 32 Groundbased Sensors, 34 vii

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viii CONTENTS Remote Sensing, 35 Crop Production Modeling, 39 Decision Support Systems, 40 Looking To Tomorrow, 43 2 A NEW WAY TO PRACTICE AGRICULTURE ..................................... 44 Changes in Management Research, 44 Systems Approach, 48 Spatial and Temporal Variation, 49 Management Factors, 51 Crop Genetics, 52 Plant Population, 52 Soil Variability, 53 Soil Fertility, 55 Pest Management, 59 Pesticide Management, 60 Farmworker Safety, 61 Weather, 61 Suppliers, 61 Monitoring Precipitation, 62 Relative Humidity, 62 Harvest, 63 Marketing, 63 Summary: Effect on Management, 63 3 ADOPTION OF PRECISION AGRICULTURE ....................................... 65 Current Status and Likely Trends, 65 Status of Current Adoption, 65 Diffusion of New Technologies, 66 Determinants of Long-Term Adoption, 67 Determinants of the Speed of Diffusion of New Technologies, 68 Long-Term Potential of Precision Agriculture, 72 Evolution of Precision Agriculture, 77 Provision of Precision Agriculture Services, 77 Provision of Precision Agriculture Products, 78 Combination of Products and Services, 79 Effects of Widespread Adoption of Precision Agriculture, 79 Effects on Rural Employment, 79 Effects on the Structure of Farming, 81 Processors and Vertical Integration, 85 Environmental Implications, 85 Conclusion, 88

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CONTENTS ix 4 PUBLIC POLICY AND PRECISION AGRICULTURE .......................... 90 Purposes for Public Involvement, 90 Research and Development, 92 Need for Improved Measurement Methods, 96 Need for Unbiased Evaluation, 99 Need for New Approaches to Research, 101 Training and Education Needs, 104 Need for High-Speed Connectivity, 106 Clarification of Intellectual Property Rights, Data Ownership, and Data Privacy, 108 Need for Data Assembly and Aggregation, 111 Need for Review of Public Data Collection, 112 Potential for Precision Agriculture, 119 REFERENCES ................................................................................................. 120 GLOSSARY ..................................................................................................... 135 AUTHORS ....................................................................................................... 138 INDEX .............................................................................................................. 141

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Tables and Figures TABLES 3-1 Estimated Costs of Precision Agriculture Services, 72 3-2 Trends in Farm Structure, 1982-1994, 84 FIGURES 1-1 Scales in a Spiral, 19 1-2 Conceptual Diagram of a Decision Support System, 41 2-1 Crop Yield and Profit Maps, 45 2-2 Soil and Crop Variability Observed in Remote Sensing, 54 2-3 Map of Soil Test Phosphorus, 58 BOXES 1-1 California Irrigation Management Information System, 24 1-2 The Crop Consultant of Tomorrow, 26 1-3 Remote Sensing Vegetation Indexes, 36 1-4 Contemporary Remote Sensing Technology, 38 2-1 Linking Crops, Information Technology, and Decision Making, 46 2-2 Site Specific Forestry Management, 56 3-1 The Paradox of Information Technology and Its Economic Effects, 74 4-1 Federal Data Collection Efforts, 114 xi

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The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal govern- ment on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of out- standing engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages edu- cation and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. William A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in pro- viding services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chair- man and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council. xii