Inside the ARECs: Precision agriculture takes off at Kentland Farm    

arecUsually the sound of buzzing on a farm is from the flapping of bees’ wings against one another or the continuous hum of a tractor’s engine.

But these days the advent of precision agriculture and all its high tech accouterments mean that buzzing sound is more likely to be from the propellers of a reconnaissance-gathering drone flying a couple hundred feet above a cornfield and gathering information about crops.

Soon drones and other precision farm equipment could become commonplace and  a boon to the bottomline of producers throughout the commonwealth.

One reason the mechanization of precision agriculture makes producers more profitable is that they can distribute feed, fertilizer, and various inputs with much more accuracy when using precision equipment.

Doug Bunn, a cattle producer from Dublin, Virginia, recently attended a precision agriculture demonstration at Kentland Farm along with 115 other people. He uses precision agriculture machinery on his cattle farming operation.

“We use autosteer on our tractors,” said Bunn. “The automation reduces the amount of chemicals we use because it’s a more precise way of delivering inputs when we use our sprayers on the corn we grow to feed our cattle.”

Bunn uses technology for recordkeeping also.

“I also have apps on my smartphone I use to keep track of my sire and dams, the cattle birth dates, and vaccinations.”

Other equipment that was demonstrated during the event were UAVs such as fixed-wing eBee drones look like large boomerangs and help with assessing crop health.  Using cameras and specialized software a producer can see realtime which crops are stressed and need more water and fertilizer using 3-D structure mapping.

“This event was critical in evaluating what farmers are already doing with precision agriculture and what industry has to offer and where we could go in the future,” said Bobby Grisso, Virginia Cooperative Extension associate director of agriculture and natural resources.  “Farmers are innovative people. As the price of technology continues to go down, we’ll see more producers utilizing these methods to remain at the forefront of the industry.”







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