Evans-Alan Funding | Agricultural Systems
Maryland | Univ. of Maryland Eastern Shore Agricultural Experiment Station | 1890 Institutions Region
Environmentally conscious precision agriculture to optimize yields, reduce expenditures and inputs, & minimize impact on the land.
Precision agriculture (PA) allows farmers to make marked improvements in efficiency, profitability, and sustainability. Yield monitoring (a major component of PA) allows for unprecedented insight into how yield varies across a field, while Remote Sensing (RS) allows farmers a real-time snapshot of infield crop performance. In fact, normalizing several seasons of yield data in conjunction with RS imagery helps farmers identify areas that can be individually managed depending on their yield potential (management zones). So far, most management zone (MZ) research has been limited to in- season chemical applications, although benefits are possible in other aspects of PA. Its use in variable rate seeding (VRS) exhibits great potential since traditional uniform rate seeding leads to reduced efficiency and adverse environmental effects.
During the trial period, the researchers tested the hypothesis that the use of MS's in conjunction with VRS and RS can increase farming efficiency. To accomplish this, several MZ's on a 50-acre research field were identified from 3 years of yield data. Once the data were georeferenced, each zone was seeded with corn at three seeding densities recommended by the Maryland Cooperative Extension Office. During the growing season, several parameters were measured including the leaf area index (LAI), plant height, and relative greenness. These were then analyzed by ANOVA to identify the differences existing between the various trial combinations. Small-format RS images were also captured to provide in season crop vigor data. Finally, seed, fertilizer costs, harvest price and a host of other parameters were used to compute a series of cost-benefit analyses.
The cost-benefit analyses subsequently determined the optimum management strategy for each MZ and have been instituted on the UMES. With the research phase concluded, the findings were disseminated in several venues. Researchers developed a set of standard procedures for researchers or farm operators to utilize such platforms in day-to-day agricultural activities. Researchers developed a list of best practices for seeding and farm input management that was since instituted on the UMES Farm Research Complex.