The evolution of precision agriculture
The government has been using ¡°remote sensing¡± techniques since the 1930s, using airplanes to photograph soil and forests.
But, experts say, the birthplace of modern precision agriculture was in Minnesota, where in the late 1970s, Control Data Corp., Cenex and Farmers Union Central Exchange Inc., formed a joint venture to develop databases on farms¡¯ soil and crop conditions, using field scouting and aerial photographs.
The program fostered a better awareness of soil and crop variability within fields, and Pierre Robert, director of of the University of Minnesota¡¯s Precision Agriculture Center. That research led to the development of a spreader changed the blend and application rate of fertilizer on the go.
In 1983, a company called SoilTeq was created to advance that technology by Cenex of Inver Grove Heights and Orty¡¯s Aerial Photo and Waconia Manufacturing, both of Waconia.
Meanwhile, Robert had started computerizing county soil surveys, work that confirmed the wide variations of nutrient levels found within fields.
Precise-yield mapping came along in the 1990s with the use of the global positioning system, provided by satellites owned by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Satellite imagery, which uses infrared and other bands of light for long-distance pictures, is produced by NASA. At least eight private companies are now providing imagery commercially.
--Joy Powell, Star Tribune