Precision agriculture can be defined generically as a bundle of technologies that adjusts input use to variations in environmental and climatic situations over space and time and reduces residues associated with input use. Many of these technologies rely on space age communication technologies and incorporate the use of geographic positioning systems (GPS). Modern irrigation technologies that adjust input use according to variability in soil and weather conditions relying on weather stations and moisture-monitoring equipment are also examples of precision technologies. Precision technologies have the potential to increase input-use efficiency, increase yields, and reduce residues of chemicals that may contaminate the environment. In many cases it may lead to input saving, but in others the yield effect may also entail increased input use (National Research Council, 1997).
Thus far, there have been significant variations in adoption rates of technology that can be generically defined as precision technologies. Some modern irrigation technologies have high rates of adoption in high value crops. Some components of what is promoted as "precision agriculture" such as yield monitors are gaining significant acceptance. But, overall, adoption rates of many components of precision agriculture have not been very high even in developed countries (National Research Council, 1997). Adoption of precision farming technologies may be hampered by the cost of investment. Furthermore, the management software needed to take advantage of the information has not been fully developed. Adoption of precision farming technologies will likely increase in the future as their cost declines, as productivity increases, and as new management software becomes available.
Precision technologies may both complement and substitute for biotechnologies. Precision technologies that enable the planting of a field with several varieties of seeds will increase the demand for diversified genetic stock that can be adjusted to slight variations in soil conditions. Precision agriculture may also improve sorting and harvesting methods, making the production of high-quality produce more economical and improve incentives to develop higher quality varieties. On the other hand, precision farming may reduce significantly the environmental side effects of pesticides and provide more refined mechanical ways to address weed problems, thus, reducing the demand for some of the pest control applications of biotechnologies and reducing the loss of biodiversity stemming from inadvertent contamination.
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