Keywords: Record keeping, Automatic recording, Fertiliser application, GPS, Automatic product detection, Traceability.
The automatic recording of chemical inputs to crops has important components relating to traceability in the food chain and the demonstration of compliance with environmental requirements specified in codes of practice and linked to legislative instruments. The development of systems for applying Precision Agriculture approaches to crop production is based on in-field location systems (e.g. the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite array), robust/rugged computers and sensors for detecting inputs to the decision support models that can be used to derive application treatment maps for defined conditions. This technology also provides a basis for automatic recording systems.
Any automatic recording system requires:
i. information relating to in-field location;
ii. identification of the product(s) to be applied;
iii. assessments of the rates of application;
iv. a means of recording rates tagged with field location.
While (a) and (d) from the above are likely to be in place on application machinery developed for Precision Agriculture operations, it is likely that additional components will be needed to identify the materials being applied and to measure application rates at different positions in a field. Such components represent an additional cost for application machinery but give advantages relating to direct checks on performance in the field, the generation of records that are directly compatible with office software systems and that are less dependant on the operator. The prime value of automatic records of in-field crop inputs relate to production traceability and it is therefore important that records can be demonstrated to be secure and tamper-proof. Such information also has value in relation to farm management systems and particularly those concerning on-farm stocks and storage of plant protection chemicals and fertilisers.
High levels of data security can be achieved by minimising the role of the operator in the recording process. Many commercial designs of in-cab control systems for application machinery for pesticide and fertiliser inputs are capable of logging details of the applications made and those with a Precision Agriculture capability can link such information to in-field position. Future developments are likely to relate to the way in which application materials are identified by on-vehicle control systems and the recorded data handled and transmitted to the farm office. It is concluded that recording systems will form an important component on the application machinery of the future.
Prof. Paul C H Miller, Silsoe Research Institute, Bedfordshire, UK
18 pages, 5 figures, 19 refs.