When we talk about the agriculture of the future that should be sustainable, precision agriculture is an important part of the solution; doing the right thing at the right time at the right place within agricultural fields. I will in my PhD-project at SLU provide a sound knowledge base for digital tools for use in precision agriculture.
One example of precision agriculture is when the farmer adjusts the amount of applied nitrogen fertilizer according to the crops actual need instead of applying the same amount across the field. The demand of fertilizer depends on place, time of year and crop status. Optimizing the fertilizer input after the need of the crops can have several benefits. For instance, this could imply that less nitrogen gets in to the ecosystem which reduces potential eutrophication of waterbodies. Furthermore, it could mean that certain production goals can be achieved as crop nutrition deficiencies can treated and the yield potential can be exploited. Lastly, the farmer can save money as they might not need to buy as much fertilizer or use the same amount of fertilizer more efficiently.
The first tool to be developed will be about modelling certain micronutrients, such as zinc or copper, in Swedish agricultural soil. Micronutrients are vital for a crops growth. The goal is that the tool should consist of maps where risks of micronutrient deficiency can easily be identified within an agricultural field. This type of tool could help farmers better understand their land and therefore be able to adjust their fertilization. Furthermore, such as tool could also help producers of fertilizer to create better adapted products. The goal is to provide a tool that can easily help the farmer assess risks of micronutrient deficiencies within fields.
The second tool to be developed will be about modelling Swedish agricultural soils’ ability to mineralize nitrogen. Nitrogen is one, if not the most important, nutrient for crop growth. Mineralization of nitrogen implies the soils ability to convert organically bound nitrogen to nitrogen that is available to plants. If the soil in question is potent at mineralizing nitrogen, the farmer does not have to apply as much nitrogen. The soils ability to mineralize nitrogen is dependent on several factors such as soil composition, moisture and organic matter content. These factors can vary quite a lot within an agricultural field. The goal of the tool is to give the farmer a detailed map where it can clearly be seen where it occurs more or less nitrogen mineralization in a field. With this information the farmer could adjust the amount of applied nitrogen fertilizer depending on the location within the field. In conclusion, I want to provide a robust science basis for easy-to use tools, so that the farmer can embrace the agriculture of the future – precision agriculture.
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