[Image: COMMON-Sense NET]
Josh Ruxin has eloquently outlined the complexities of how technology plays into resource and land management. Ruxin: "Information Communications Technology is needed to connect farmers to markets and provide timely information to optimize incomes and expand efficiencies in the marketplace." Managing the landscape is undoubtedly increasing in complexity, and it only follows given the opportunities afforded by remote sensing, GPS navigation and market-homestead connectivity.
Some further reading:
- ICTs and Food Security is a recent report that catalogs developments in soil mapping, distributed sensing, SMS messaging, RFID inventory management and e-learning and documents how they can benefit agricultural production.
- Coupled with GIS soil mapping, tractors can be outfitted with GPS receivers to inform (or even automate) steering. This information can allow for more precise planting and nuanced application of chemicals.
- Precision farming is the technical term for the intersection of information technology and farming. A great overview of the approach is available here. How precision farming differs from the traditional model of whole-field management: "Site-specific management... recognizes the variability within a field and is about doing the right thing, in the right way, at the right place and time. It involves assessing and reacting to field variability by tailoring management actions, such as fertilization levels, seeding rates and variety selection, to match changing field conditions. It assumes that managing field variability leads to both cost savings and production increases, as well as improved stewardship and environmental benefits."
As a Mid Western farmer, I would offer.
1. The AM Noon stock prices broadcasts have been a staple in the Farming World for years. Optimization of meeting prices at their best vs scheduling stock sales is always a farmers challenge.
2. Precision Farming is and has been practiced since the Sumerian days. Wx, heat, aridness, rain, lack of or too much, field conditions re fertilzers need, and the simple tasks of field prep for planting, are the simulation data points we use, IN OUR HEAD.
I don't think GIS or distributed sensors are any replacement for good instincts, wisdom or expertise. I think there are some pretty fascinating possibilities for variance in planting and chemical application though. A large chunk of my extended family farm in the Canadian prairies and their operations certainly aren't "wired" like this.
I wouldn't call my relatives "imprecise" but the word "precision" is relative right? For example, I think I am "precise" when I cut a piece of wood with a handsaw. In my head I can see the cut line, or maybe I pencil it on the wood, and I follow it to the best of my ability. If I were to program a CNC milling machine to make the same cut I could do so with a 1/64th of an inch bit and ABSOLUTE adherence to the desired tool path. Which is more precise?
I'm not going to pretend to have a wealth of knowledge about farming (past or present) but I will stand behind the following statement: technology does not replace instincts and experience but it can certainly enhance them.