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New technology for 21st century.

Orbiting satellites and laser measuring devices may be essential pieces of equipment for farming in the next decade. Purdue University experts predict that farmers will need these new tools just to know where to plant their seeds,

These technologies will be necessary for site-specific or prescription farming. Site-specific farming means that conditions are measured for areas in a field as small as a few feet or even inches, and pesticides and fertilizers are applied according to the needs of that site. Proponents say this will reduce chemical use and boost yields, both of which will cut costs and increase benefits for farmers and consumers.

"We're going back to what Squanto taught John Smith about putting a seed with a fish in a small hill of dirt," indicates Howard Doster, associate professor of agricultural economics. "In the years since Squanto, we've been farming bigger and bigger fields instead of individual sites. This new farming is based on the environment of that site ...... For such pinpoint accuracy, farmers will rely on satellites that already are in orbit as part of the Air Force's Navstar Global Positioning System, made available to commercial users following the end of the Cold War.

Farmers are not strangers to satellite communications. Many use satellite dishes to pull in up-to-the-minute weather reports, agricultural news, and commodity price information. The home satellite dishes soon will be used to relay global positioning information. Once the farmer locates his position in the field, he will need information about that small site before he can plant the seed or treat the plant with pesticides. "For each plot, farmers will measure slope, soil type and different levels, water table, fertility, the history of cropping rotations on that field. the micro-weather for that small area, and the organic content, which will tell farmers the weed population," explains Gary Krutz, professor of agricultural engineering.

The characteristics of each plot of ground will be added to a database in a computer that will use the information beamed from the satellites to determine how much fertilizer or pesticide to apply to that spot or how far apart to plant the seeds. "We will then go back to multiple applications of chemicals over the growing season, which will reduce the total volume of chemicals being applied. The farmer will need to apply herbicide only in certain areas of the field. European farmers have found that multiple, smaller chemical and fertilizer applications also increase yield."
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Title Annotation:agricultural technology
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Dec 1, 1993
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