Sun, seeds, soil, and now… satellite positioning. Technology has added a whole new dimension to farming. New innovations don’t just make life easier for farmers, they can help to protect the environment. This Earth Day, let’s look at three ways that technology has made farming greener.
Biotechnology for Efficiency
Food biotechnology uses plant science and genetics. With this technology, scientists can move genes for valuable traits from one plant to another. These traits help create environmental and economic benefits for the farmer and for us.
For instance, certain biotech foods are resistant to pests and diseases. The reduction in chemical usage is beneficial for water and wildlife, and for workers who manage the crops.
Biotech crops also need less ‘tilling,’ or plowing, to control weeds. Plowing is a major source of soil erosion – it was even a key factor behind the Dust Bowl in the 1930s! No-till farming also locks carbon in the soil and requires less tractor fuel, so it could have benefits for climate change. Though no-till farming has been around longer than biotechnology, new biotechnology enables more farmers to use this method. As an additional benefit, biotechnology can help to limit deforestation, since less land is needed to produce the same amount of product.
Fertilizer is an important topic to mention on Earth Day. Replenishing nutrients in the soil is essential to grow the world’s food. In fact, fertilizer contributes to 30-50 percent of the world’s crop production. ‘4R nutrient stewardship’ means applying the right kind of fertilizer, at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place. Here are a few examples of how 4R Advocates use precision agriculture technology:
- Grower Matthew Clements from Grandview, Idaho, works with retailer Terry Tindall. They uses precision mapping to create soil management zones. Each zone gets just the right amount of fertilizer for its needs.
- Grower Sean Jones is from Massey, Maryland, and he partners with retailer Michael Twining. They use an advanced water management program that tracks daily crop growth, water demand, and available soil water, to make sure water use is efficient and sustainable.
- Joel Erickson is from Langford, South Dakota and works with Andrew Kappes. They use cover crops to capture nutrients and provide grazing for cattle.
To learn more, visit http://www.nutrientstewardship.com/4r-advocate.
Precise Pest Management
Technology is also changing the way that farmers protect their crops. New devices can carefully track the application of pesticides. That information helps farmers to make sure that they are using as little as they can. For example, lightbar guidance systems track where a pesticide is applied. That way, the same area doesn’t get sprayed twice. Similar technologies can also help farmers determine which sections of their field are most vulnerable to pests. This helps ensure that the pesticide is only applied where it is most needed. A strategic, high-tech approach to pesticide application doesn’t just help the environment. It helps farmers too. Pesticides can be expensive, so farmers want to be as efficient as possible and keep crops affordable.
Whether you’re appreciating water conservation, protection of nature, or more precise fertilizer and pest control applications, we hope you’ll join us in a toast to technology this Earth Day!