A review of the past, present and future of precision agriculture in the UK


Cereals & Oilseeds
Project code:
01 January 2001 - 01 January 2001
AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds.
Project leader:
Sajjad Awan Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, Stoneleigh Park, Kenilworth CV8 2TL



About this project


Precision agriculture (PA) as a crop management concept has the potential to address many of the increasing environmental, economic and public pressures on arable farming. Benefits are attained due to increased yields and/or reduced costs through the efficient use of resources. PA, therefore, contributes to the wider goal of sustainable intensification.

One of the key features of PA comes from satellite-controlled positioning systems, principally Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) that are a major enabler of 'precision systems'. Automatic steering systems are the most successful applications on arable land, showing clear benefits to the farmers, and there is increasing uptake of Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) to minimise soil compaction. Development of sensor technology and access to new and historical datasets is enabling extension of PA into Variable Rate Technology (VRT), e.g. for optimising fertiliser and pesticide use. At present, the success rate varies significantly depending on the site-specific factors of application but substantial improvements are likely as technology develops.

This brief review reaffirms that PA can play an important role in the UK to meet the increasing demand for food, feed, and raw materials while delivering sustainable intensification. Nevertheless, the adoption of PA presents specific challenges due to the sizes and diversity of farm structures. An assessment of the potential actions to support the adoption of PA has highlighted some key knowledge gaps including, but not limited to, the ease of use of the technology, reliability and cost effectiveness.