Farmers are curious people, and they are relentless in their conservation of natural resources and pursuit of improvement. Crop protection is one area in particular where they are always looking to learn how to be more effective, more precise, and more efficient.
Customized crop protection
The precision of modern crop protection applies to both planning and application. Because every farmer faces a unique combination of threats from insects, weeds, and disease, planning must be individualized. With the help of digital tools like data analytics, it is now possible to precisely tailor solutions for each situation.
Advanced farming software platforms can take the data farmers are collecting about yield, fertility, and pest pressures, analyze that data, and provide a recommended prescription for applying crop protection products. And all of this is accessible via a mobile device.
Farmers will also frequently consult with agronomists to interpret software recommendations. Once they have a solution, the application of products can be done with more accuracy and efficiency than ever, ensuring every plant receives exactly what it needs to thrive.
Integrated crop protection solutions
The damage caused by weeds, insects, pests and diseases vary in each season, so a single crop protection solution does not work effectively. Luckily, modern agriculture provides farmers with a series of advanced chemical, biological and digital solutions. Using of a combination of those tools, farmers can tackle the challenges to crop protection.
For instance, pesticide application has been one of the valuable crop protection tools. Pesticides work best when used in the right place, at the right time, and in the right amount. Weed, insect, and disease levels change every season, so farmers adapt to use only what’s necessary. Modern tools like GPS guidance on sprayers and site-specific nozzles help farmers use only as much as needed.
Furthermore, to avoid the recurrence of resistant weed, resulting from the use of a single pesticide, a modern management strategy suggests a flexible weed control scheme, which includes the use of various herbicides or herbicide with a different action mechanism, as well as other complementary measures, such as crop coverage, soil turnover, crop rotation and the optimization of sowing time.
Not only are modern solutions customized, they also interact with one another. For example, cover crop strategies work together with precision spraying and microbial seed treatments, all coordinated by data analytics platforms.
In addition to analyzing tremendous amounts of data, these software platforms are sophisticated enough to help farmers combine solutions in the most efficient manner possible. For example, if a soybean farmer is having white mold problems, a platform might recommend the use of a specific seed and seed treatment combination, allowing the farmer to use less fungicide during the growing season.
What will the next tool look like?
A changing global climate adds a layer of complexity, as new and unpredictable weather patterns can make farmer efforts more difficult.
One thing is for sure: research and development in modern agriculture will remain focused on finding innovative ways to help farmers reach their operational goals and keep their crops healthy, while using resources more efficiently. As crop protection solutions continue to evolve in response to farmer needs, precision and efficiency will remain key priorities.
Over the past two decades, technology investment in startups focused on the ag space has exploded. More recently, the years from 2013-2015 each set a new record for total investment in the space, with 2015 producing a total of $4.6 billion invested. A 2016 report from Goldman Sachs, one of the world’s largest investment banks, estimates that the precision agriculture segment of the economy could provide as much as $240 billion in revenue.
This level of investment can lead to employment stability for an entire generation of data scientists and software engineers. The next generation of data scientists, software engineers, and startup investors are using this knowledge to build even better, more efficient solutions for farmers. These digital tools, and the people who design and operate them, will continue to provide valuable support for modern agriculture’s quest to make the best use of resources, steward the land, and enhance sustainability.