The agriculture ministers of Canada, Mexico, and the United States described national initiatives to boost productivity and slow global warming at the World Food Prize symposium on Thursday, with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack saying, "There's a tremendous opportunity for North America to lead the world." While he called for being tolerant of different approaches to climate mitigation, Vilsack was clear that in his view, the U.S. high-technology approach is the best.
Half of the farmers in the biggest corn, soybean, and wheat states employ precision agriculture in their operations — from GPS guidance of tractors and combines to deploying drones to scout fields or monitor livestock — twice the national average, said a USDA report on computer usage on Wednesday. Far more farms have a cellular internet connection than broadband; 18 percent have no internet access at all.
Five farm-state Republicans unveiled a package of climate bills that in one instance would allow private-sector donors to USDA conservation accounts to specify where the money would be spent and put "a name or a brand" on a project. Another of the bills would allow landscape-scale forest management projects of up to 75,000 acres — bigger than the District of Columbia — to reduce wildfire risk through forest thinning, controlled burns, salvaging dead or endangered trees, and creation of "fuel breaks" up to one-half mile wide.
In FERN's latest story, Michael Behar takes a close look at precision agriculture — cutting-edge tools like drones, satellite imagery and artificial intelligence that help farmers keep careful watch over their crops. In addition to improving yields, Behar shows how the technology also allows farmers to reduce water and chemical use. The story was produced in collaboration with EatingWell magazine.(No paywall)
A USDA study says the largest corn farms, covering more than 4.5 square miles, are the leaders in adopting precision agriculture, which includes yield monitors for GPS mapping of fields, auto-steer controls of planting and harvest equipment, and variable rate applicators.
In the arid West, pioneering California farmers are using drones to add another layer of precision to their use of irrigation water, says Associated Press. One of the pioneers, Cannon Michael, of Bowles Farming Co. in Los Banos, has mounted a thermal camera on a drop to spot leaks from underground irrigation pipes — color variations indicate different amounts of moisture in the soil.
The USDA's effort to elevate farming as a career option for veterans once they exit the military is moving into a new phase, says Military Times, as officials "unveiled ... plans to better explain and market a host of industry jobs to recently separated service members, calling it a growth area that fits nicely with the skills and training of those veterans."
The State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology is building a cloud-based clearinghouse that it hopes will help farmers and others in the food industry "make sense" of the growing mountain of data and "put it to good use," reports The Enterprisers Project.
Climate Corp., a subsidiary of Monsanto, says it will develop its own in-field network of weather and soil monitors—including a sensor that tracks nitrate levels—to broaden its agronomic models that help farmers decide their crop strategies. The nitrate sensor could mean more efficient use of nitrogen fertilizer and less runoff into waterways.
South Dakota State University will launch the nation's first four-year degree in precision agriculture this fall, with a goal of educating "the next generation of innovators," reports AgWeb
Precision agriculture and big data are familiar concepts in the world of farming. Now, the "Internet of Things" - devices with sensors that transmit data and respond to instructions via a digital network - is being sized up for agriculture.
While urban America has nearly universal access to wired broadband, the rate in rural America is 78 percent, according to industry data. USDA's 2012 Census of Agriculture says 70 percent of farms have Internet access but...
A dozen farm groups and agribusinesses agreed on a 10 principles for data privacy and security in the emerging field of agricultural Big Data. The agreement follows months of discussions.