Posts Tagged ‘Farming’

Know Your Farmer

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Farmer

This week not only brings us more hours of daylight, warmer temperatures and the promise of spring, it’s the annual celebration of National Agriculture Day, which this year features the theme, “Your Food, Your Farmer.”

Farming is such an integral part of our lives, it can be easy to take farmers for granted. But try surviving without them: According to the American Farm Bureau, the average U.S. farmer is responsible for feeding 155 people each year. And that’s three times the amount produced per farmer 50 years ago.

The good news is that the past several years have witnessed a growing awareness of the food we eat — and where it comes from. For example, a resurgence in Farmers Markets, which now total more than 6,100 cross-country, bring locally produced fruits and vegetables, meats, cheese, flowers and breads to consumers in every state in the nation, and bring the community face-to-face with the people behind their agriculture.

At the same time, the Farm-to-School initiative, launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), gets kids involved in agriculture from an early age. The program uses classroom lessons, farm tours and even hands-on planting of community gardens as some of the many ways to help children understand how their food reaches their plates.

Meanwhile, the USDA website, “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food,” introduces all of us to the bountiful ways that farmers, large and small, make a difference in our lives, whether it’s by promoting healthy eating, protecting natural resources or strengthening rural communities and economies.

Check out the Agrowknowledge website for career ideas and educational resources in the farming and agricultural industries. They’re growing fields – literally and figuratively!

March 20th is National Agriculture Day!

Friday, March 19th, 2010
National Ag Day

National Ag Day

It’s been a long winter and for many of us, that’s meant snow and ice, and days that are too short and too dark.

But this week, we not only turned the clocks ahead for Daylight Savings Time, but we also celebrate the first day of spring this coming Saturday, March 20. And in the agricultural industry, the first day of spring is AgDay, a national event created by the Agriculture Council of America (ACA) as part of National Agriculture Week. First introduced in 1973, Ag Day and National Agriculture Week were created to focus on the vitally important role that farming and agriculture play to our lives, including our health, our environment and our economy.

Consider:

*More than 22 million people in the U.S. are employed in farm or farm-related jobs, including production agriculture, farm inputs, processing and marketing and wholesale and retail sales.

*Forty-one percent of total U.S. land — 938.28 million acres — is farmland, and the average farm covers 441 acres, compared with 147 acres in 1900.

*U.S. farmers produce 46 percent of the world’s soybeans, 41 percent of the world’s corn, 20.5 percent of the world’s cotton and 13 percent of the world’s wheat.

Those are some impressive numbers!

But equally as impressive are the many ways that today’s farming techniques are keeping pace with our country’s changing needs and tastes, resulting in healthier crops and meat products and increased efficiencies and cost effectiveness. According to the ACA, the new technique known as “precision farming” boosts crop yields and reduces waste by using satellite maps and computers to match seed, fertilizer and crop protection applications to local soil conditions. At the same time, biotechnology advances are yielding tastier fruits and vegetables that stay fresher longer and are less vulnerable to damage by insects.

That’s great news for all of us as we work to maintain more nutritious diets. Today’s population, for example, eats a whopping 900 percent more broccoli than we did just 20 years ago! We also consume about 30 pounds of lettuce per person per year — five times more than our ancestors ate in the 1900s. And blueberries — another of the plant family’s nutritional powerhouses — have also gained tremendously in popularity, with over 200 million pounds grown in North America each year.

In addition to keeping us healthy, today’s farmers are safeguarding the health of our environment . Reduced tillage practices on more than 72 million acres help prevent erosion, and maintenance of more than 1.3 million acres of grass waterways allows water to flow naturally from crops without eroding soil. And, just as the households of America now routinely recycle glass, newspaper and aluminum, the farms of America continue their age-old recycling practice of applying manure to fields replace nutrients in the soil.

There’s no question that the farming industry has made the most of new technologies — expanding, adapting, and ultimately, improving the agricultural products that reach America’s homes. Today’s farmers work nearly three-and-one-half times more land than their predecessors from 1900, and each American farmer produces enough to feed 144 people — a dramatic increase from 25 people in the 1960s!

“There is an on-going consolidation in agriculture that results in fewer farmers farming more acres,” says Doug DeVries, Sr. Vice President Agricultural Marketing for North America, Australia and Asia at John Deere in Moline, Ill. “Their needs for equipment are changing. Their expectations for what the equipment will do for their farming operation are also changing.” The field of agriculture as a whole just continues to evolve.

So, on National Agriculture Day: this Saturday, March 20th, as well as the next time you help yourself to a serving of broccoli or toss a handful of blueberries on top of your cereal, consider where they came from — each farmer in America today is responsible for feeding you — and 143 others like you!

What exactly is Precision Agriculture?

Friday, February 26th, 2010
Working the Field

Working the Field

Image: vitasamb2001 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’ve been speaking a lot about Precision Agriculture on ATETV- who is using it, how they are using it, how it is vital to the efficiency and production efforts of farmers, etc. But what is it exactly? We thought it was an interesting enough topic to delve still further into and get greater insight into this new and exciting field.

Precision Agriculture is the use of technology to understand and manage varibility in fields and crops. Emerging technologies such as remotely sensed imagery, GPS, and GIS allow farmers to survey their land and collect information to create maps that identify crop specific variables like soil nutrients, management practices, soil characteristics, past yields, level of moisture, pest infestations, etc down to the specific meter. This data helps farmers manage their fields for economic or environmental benefits. The many benefits include: reduce costs for crop inputs like fertilizer that would have been spread in areas that don’t need it and can now be placed in areas that do, better time management for the farmer and reduction of agricultural impact by targeting the use of pesticides and other chemicals. It also allows the farmer to more specifically document a history of his or her practices and results to pass on to future workers.

The field of Precision Agriculture has been around for at least 10 years but the basics of it are nothing new. Collecting data and making decisions based on that data are central principles of farming and have been around for many years. When plots of land were smaller in size, this was obviously easier. But as they grew, this no longer was possible. New tools and techniques were waiting to be discovered. Created in the mid 1960s, the Geographic Information System (GIS) was probably the first precision farming tool developed. It provided tools for analysis.

Then came several different soil testers and other instruments designed to make the techniques of farming still easier and more accurate. What remained was how to streamline all of this information and translate it to a broader, all encompassing picture of the area that could be used to further improve practices.

Along came the Global Positioning System (GPS). With enough satellites available in late 1980s and early 1990s, it was possible to use GPS receivers to determine individual location for all of this data. What that meant for the farming industry then was that farmers would now be able to analyze all that data for smaller manageable “subfields” and program a computer to position application of nutrients and seed where they are needed spatially on the land. These subfields, which are hundreds of separately manageable units, allow the farmer to make decisions that are much more efficient than on a whole field basis.

As new and emerging technologies, they will continue to be applied to a wide number of industries including agriculture. The use of pneumatic systems now allow equipment to automatically shutoff the application of seed or nutrients on areas that have already been applied, eliminating double application. The use of identification tags along with GPS will allow farmers to accurately track and manage individual animals. Optic systems will allow the identification of specific pests and the automatic application of a pesticide only on that pest, reducing costs and the use of chemicals.

Where this goes from here then is anyone’s guess. Perhaps tools will be invented that collect data and make decisions in real-time? Maybe we will utilize small field robots one day? Anything is possible. Special thanks to Terry Brase at Kirkwood Community College for his input on this topic!