Precision Agriculture in Potato Production
© 2014, European Association for Potato Research. Precision agriculture (PA) involves more precise seeding, fertilizer application, irrigation, and pesticide use in order to optimize crop production for the purpose of increasing grower revenue and protecting the environment. High-value crops, like potato (Solanum tuberosum L.), are recognized as good candidates for the adoption of PA because of the high cost of inputs. In addition, the sensitivity of potato yield and quality to crop management and environmental conditions makes precision management economically important. The spatial and temporal variability of soil conditions and crop growth are well documented. The PA uses geospatial information and technologies to manage this variability more precisely. Intensive soil sampling techniques, yield monitors, and soil and plant sensors can be used to identify where, when, and how much variability is present in a field. The agronomist’s role is to analyze the within-field variability in order to determine how best to manage it. Two main approaches are available for addressing crop and soil variability: (1) variable rate applications (VRA) and (2) management zones (MZ). Research spanning 15 years has shown that the MZ approach based on a detailed soil survey map (e.g., scale ≤1:10,000), soil property data, or ideally, apparent soil electrical conductivity, was more effective than VRA at managing variability and enhancing potato productivity and profitability while reducing the environmental impacts of agricultural practices.
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