Precision Farming uses sensors and satellites to manage specific field areas. Such issues as soil irregularities or differences in the productivity of a field are taken into consideration and can be managed using digital field mapping. This enables targeted sowing, fertilisation, plant protection treatment as well as harvesting and can reduce the use of resources. Overall, Precision Farming can be used in almost all operating areas:
- Farm management (farm management and quality management)
- Stock management (sowing, fertilisation, plant protection, harvest)
- Machinery management (site monitoring, machine monitoring and control, route planning)
- Work management (automatic steering, manned and unmanned guidance and satellite vehicles)
When it comes to the cereal harvest, Precision Farming can facilitate quality differentiation on the field itself. This reduces the need for more difficult separation processes using post-harvest technology. For example, a partial area can be differentiated by moisture content using test drives or yield maps from past years. Another option is differentiation based on the constituents of the crops in different areas. This can be done by separating the collecting tanks or leaving lower-quality areas of the crop.
Satellite images as the basis for harvesting decisions
Quality differentiation on the field can be checked by reviewing the vegetation by means of satellites. The European Copernicus programme includes various measuring stations (on the ground, in the water and in the air) and satellites. These continuously record data on the state of the Earth, which are processed for climate studies, weather forecasts, wind energy maps and harvest statistics. The satellites and instruments were developed by the European Space Agency, ESA. The first satellite, Sentinel-1A was launched in 2014. Currently, the Sentinel satellite family consists of six different missions: Sentinel 1, 2, 3, 5P and 6, plus Sentinel 4 and 5, which operated as measuring instruments on meteorological satellites.
Sentinel 2 satellites are optical satellites that were launched in 2015 (Sentinel-2A) and 2017 (Sentinel-2B). All of the 13 channels are optimised for the observation of land surfaces and vegetation. The images range between 443 and 2190 nm in the visible and infrared spectrum. The high resolution (of 10, 20, and 60 m) and a sampling width of 290 km ensures that vegetation can be very well identified. It is thus possible to observe the growth of wild and crop plants, estimate harvest forecasts and map forests. Biomass growth can thus be checked and assessed through the spatial resolution of the nutritional status of the crop plants. However, the raw data of the satellites are of little use. They must first be processed, for example in the form of application maps. In some cases, the satellite data are offset against additional data such as temperature data or older satellite data. For example, the application maps can be supplemented by additional information, such as the fertilizer used or the harvest maturity.