Precision maps are an extremely useful tool in precision agriculture and are becoming more and more commonly used in the agriculture industry. Precision maps assist farmers by showing them precise locations in the field and providing them specific information about that location. A precision map is a map that is made up of geo-referenced data that can then be used to show information about a precise location in a field, as well as information on crop moisture levels, soil nutrients levels, crop yield and much more.
Precision maps work by using a variety of different physical sensors along with GPS information to analyze variables such crop or soil moisture, crop yield, and more. The benefit of precision maps is a farmer can use this type of information to accurately locate areas of need, low crop yield or low moisture levels, and react accordingly. Precision maps can help to save farmers money by preventing overspray, if a farmer utilizes precision maps, he or she will be able to mitigate their spraying by only spraying pesticides, fertilizers or replanting seeds in areas of need; this helps to not only save the farmer money, but also aids the environment.
There are many different types of precision maps that can be generated by farmers and these different types of maps can be used alongside each other to show many different things about field conditions that a farmer would not otherwise be able to easily see with his or her own eye. Precision maps can help farmers in a variety of different ways, one way is in their decision making process. When a farmer is using and utilizing precision maps to their full potential, they can make less guesses about what they think about soil nutrient levels or potential crop yield, and use precision maps to make educated and strategic choices for their fields. These maps could help to make decisions including fertilizer or pesticide application, field conditioning, or crop rotation.
Types of Precision Maps
A precision map is any map that shows data in a geo-referenced manor. For example, although UAV’s can take pictures of fields and show a variety of different information, these are not precision maps due to their lack of precision. While on the other hand, some combine harvesters equipped with the proper technology can collect area specific data that is precise to a specific point in the field, not the field itself.
Soil Maps can be collected in a variety of different ways, although geo-referenced soil maps are collected in different methods. One method is to divide the field into a grid pattern and sample each individual grid block, the more grid blocks and samples, the more accurate soil map you will have. Another method is to take samples of the field in zones that are designated by previous information such as yield maps, topography or other precision maps. In both of these examples, all of the soil samples are geo-referenced - which means that the location of the sample is recorded. This is so that specific samples can represent soil fertility levels in any particular zone of the field.
This geo-referenced map of soil samples that is eventually built-up can be used to cross reference other types of precision maps and determine nutrient levels, possible yield and many other pieces of information. These maps can also be paired with other pieces of precision agriculture technology such as VRT (variable rate technologies), like planters, sprayers or spreaders. These technologies connect with the GPS location of soil maps and or other precision maps to help accurately dispense a precise amount of product. This technology helps to prevent over seeding, fertilizing or pesticide use and applies product at a different rate in relation to what the field actually needs.
A yield map is a map that focuses on crop yield - for example, how much more fruitful one area of the field is in comparison to another. This map is used as a visual tool and can help to show farmers relationships between crop yield and field condition variables. A yield map is best utilized when layered with many different types of maps so that it can accurately show farmers a variety of different information that is supported by other sources. Similar to soil maps and many other different types of precision maps, yield maps can be used alongside other technologies like VRT to help aid farmers even more as they harvest, or spread seed, fertilizer or apply pesticides.
These two types of maps are not the only type of precision maps, although they are two extremely common maps that help to aid farmers with decision making information.
Tools and Equipment Needed for Precision Mapping
For a farmer to accurately and precisely develop a precision map, a variety of different tools and equipment are needed, including sensors that are attached directly to farm machinery. These pieces of equipment help to read and evaluate many different aspects of crop and soil conditions and help to provide the farmer with valuable information about their fields.
Some Typical Precision Mapping Tools Include:
- A Grain Moisture Sensor- This sensor detects grain moisture levels and can tell the farmer if an area of crops needs more or less irrigation.
- A GPS Antenna- a GPS or Global Positioning System antenna is a piece of equipment that receives signals from global positioning satellites to provide and record specific locations.
- A Grain Flow Sensor- This sensor helps to determine the volume of grain that has been harvested.
- GPS Receiver and Yield Monitor- the Yield Monitor and GPS receiver work together to gather the information collected by the sensors and collect them in one central location while geo-referencing the data.
- Grain Elevator Speed Sensor- this sensor is very similar to a grain flow sensor and gathers data of grain flow measurements, although having both sensors in place helps to improve the accuracy of measurements.
Although there are still a great deal of other tools and pieces of equipment that are used in precision mapping, these five are the most basic pieces of equipment and sensors that are used for this type of mapping. A variety of other sensors can be added to equipment for more accurate readings or a different variety of readings.
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