CFFO: The Power of Data, Precision Ag

By Brooke Wareing

In recent years there has been a movement towards agriculture driven by technology. This includes the transition towards using precision agriculture to enhance farmer empowerment surrounding land management decisions. Precision agriculture was the focus of a presentation at the Latornell Conservation Symposium.

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This conference included many workshops centered around agriculture and related topics including soil management, natural heritage, and new and emerging technologies. Presenter Ian McDonald, OMAFRA Crop Innovation Specialist, articulated that precision ag is a practice that includes managing land with the help of data and technology. Precision agriculture can include anything from pesticide and fertilizer monitors, to maps indicating where the highest yields are on a field. Often times precision agriculture involves the use of a Global Positioning System (GPS) to map out and drive a tractor across the field. Precision agriculture can also take advantage of sensors scanning the land, giving information on moisture content and soil fertility indicators.

McDonald explained that some farmers using yield maps and grid sampling have been able to save input costs. Grid sampling matches yield potential with inputs by splitting a field into a grid and taking a soil sample from each section of a grid, giving detailed information about all areas of a land parcel. This means that farmers can reduce seed and pesticide use in areas where there is lower yield potential, or remove unproductive land from cropping altogether. This can lead to monetary savings and can also save farmers time when they spend less effort in areas where the yield potential is low.

After this workshop questions were raised about what will happen to all the data that is collected during the precision agriculture process. Both Ian McDonald and Nicole Rabe, another OMAFRA presenter, discussed that in the future seed companies such as Monsanto will be interested in obtaining the data to better service their customers and tailor seeds according to soil type, moisture, etc. This will present some complex choices for farmers regarding whether or not they would like to sell or share their data. Whether or not you choose to use precision agriculture on your farm, it is important to know about the technologies that are out there, and the tools that farmers may choose to use in the future.

Agriculture is an industry that has seen an enormous amount of change in the last decade and will continue to change rapidly. The CFFO hopes that these changes will continue to empower farmers and allow them to make informed decisions about what happens on their land.
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Brooke Wareing is Communications Intern for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXFM Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston. It is also archived on the CFFO website, www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,000 family farmers across Ontario.