Precision Agriculture Technologies Positively Contributing to GHG Emissions Mitigation, Farm Productivity and Economics

Authors: Athanasios Balafoutis, Bert Beck, Spyros Fountas, Jurgen Vangeyte, Tamme van der Wal, Iria Soto, Manuel Gómez-Barbero, Andrew Barnes and Vera Eory

Journal Title: Sustainability

ISSN: 2071-1050 (Online)

Publisher: MDPI AG

Agriculture is one of the economic sectors that affect climate change contributing to greenhouse gas emissions directly and indirectly. There is a trend of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions reduction, but any practice in this direction should not affect negatively farm productivity and economics because this would limit its implementation, due to the high global food and feed demand and the competitive environment in this sector. Precision agriculture practices using high-tech equipment has the ability to reduce agricultural inputs by site-specific applications, as it better target inputs to spatial and temporal needs of the fields, which can result in lower greenhouse gas emissions. Precision agriculture can also have a positive impact on farm productivity and economics, as it provides higher or equal yields with lower production cost than conventional practices. In this work, precision agriculture technologies that have the potential to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions are presented providing a short description of the technology and the impacts that have been reported in literature on greenhouse gases reduction and the associated impacts on farm productivity and economics. The technologies presented span all agricultural practices, including variable rate sowing/planting, fertilizing, spraying, weeding and irrigation.

Illustration Photo: In the early 2000s, a NASA-funded researcher at BioServe Space Technologies, a nonprofit, NASA-sponsored research center located at the University of Colorado-Boulder, connected to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, at the time, looked at possible relationship between water content and leaf rigidity and whether the data relating to that relationship can be monitored by sensors. The concept was later commercialized by AgriHouse Brands Ltd. in a sensor that can be placed on a leaf to directly measure its water content. This data, along with overall plant health, is relayed to farmers’ computers; the system can then send text messages alerting farmers of crops that need watering. Whereas traditional irrigation methods typically water plants more often than is needed, precision agriculture, enabled by the leaf sensor, saves not only water but also the precious commodities of time and money. (credits: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center / Flickr Creative Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0))

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