The potential of precision farming from an agronomic perspective


Cereals & Oilseeds
Project code:
01 December 1995 - 31 May 1996
AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds.
AHDB sector cost:
£17,987 From HGCA (Project No. 0034/1/95)
Project leader:
R. Sylvester-Bradley1, E. I. Lord2, R. K. Scott3, R. W. Clare4, W. D. Basford5, R. J. Bryson1, W. S. Clark1, J. H. Clarke1, P. M. R. Dampney1, M. A. Froment6, G. Goodlass7, J. H. Orson1, W. E. Parker2, N. D. Paveley7, J. Spink4 and J. J. J. Wiltshire8 1ADAS Boxworth, Boxworth, Cambridge CB3 8NN 2ADAS Wolverhampton, Woodthorne, Wergs Road, Wolverhampton WV6 8TQ 3Department of Agriculture and Horticulture, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus, Loughborough, Leicestershire LE12 5RD 4ADAS Rosemaund, Preston Wynne, Hereford HR1 3PG 5ADAS Gleadthorpe, The Grange, Meden Vale, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire NG20 9PD 6ADAS Bridgets, Martyr Worthy, Winchester, Hampshire SO21 1AP 7ADAS High Mowthorpe, Duggleby, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 8BP 8ADAS Terrington, Terrington St Clements, Kings Lynn, Norfolk PE34 4PW



About this project


Precision farming is the process of adjusting husbandry practices within a field according to varying conditions measured within the field. In this review, we explore the prospects for precision farming using the principles that underly conventional agronomy.

Many of the ingredients essential for precision farming already exist although some technologies are at an early stage of development. Current conventional agronomy depends upon the five underlying steps of 'locate, sense, decide, act and monitor'. To move towards precision farming, most of these steps would require a significant investment in automation. There are already technologies that can automate and improve most of the steps, but not the second: the major obstacle to the development of precision farming at the moment is the automation of 'sensing'.

The costs and techniques of sensing must provide parameters appropriate to the most important decisions with sufficient resolution to allow reliable definition of treatment zones. Satellite mounted sensors are unlikely to find a place in supporting precision farming in the short or medium term because their signals are too infrequent. A few low cost sensing techniques are known and these could be tractor-mounted but none has yet been developed to the extent that in-field variation in factors affecting agronomic decisions can be sensed with adequate timeliness, accuracy and precision.