Factors for evaluating precision farming
Precision farming can be applied to various agricultural activities. Drilling, fertilisation, plant protection and tillage can all be performed on a site-specific basis with the help of application maps. Improvements in fertiliser spreading, for example, are in the region of up to 50 percent of the regular application rate. Similar results can be achieved in drilling.
Studies also show that the seed rate can be significantly reduced without affecting yields. A reduction in the application rate can even be achieved with site-specific plant protection spraying. However, the active ingredients in plant protection products are often applied in combination, which means it is not always possible to reduce the spread rate without potentially compromising their efficacy. If the impact is too minimal, there is a risk of pathogen resistance. This is why the use of precision farming for plant protection should always be assessed on a case-by-case basis and planned precisely.
In terms of fertilisation, comprehensive trials analysing the efficiency of site-specific cultivation already exist within the precision farming domain. The economic viability of precision fertilisation depends on various factors, such as the investment required in order to use the technology in the first place. This includes the cost of site-specific spreading equipment and software. The local conditions and key metrics such as the farm size, area under cultivation, crop proportion and variability of the fields are also important when making an assessment. It is worth noting, of course, that on soils with minimal variation, the effect of site-specific fertilisation will be minimal. Staff training should also be factored into the calculation. The cost of acquiring information and training staff is often omitted, which then dilutes the accuracy of the assessment.
As such, a full costing is needed in order to draw robust conclusions. Several methods are available for examining the effects of precision farming: one option is to conduct parcel and strip trials to compare uniform and site-specific cultivation variants, and another is to use growth models to simulate the effects of adapted fertilisation on yields.