sealPurdue News

September 1997

Primer on precision farming available

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A new book on precision farming explains the fundamentals of the techniques and technologies, as well as providing insights on coming developments.

The book, "The Precision Farming Guide for Agriculturists" (ISBN: 0-86691-245-2), was written by two Purdue University agricultural and biological engineering professors, Mark Morgan and Dan Ess.

According to Morgan, the book is written with the beginner in mind. "If you are looking to use site-specific technology for crop production, this book will give you the questions you should be asking before you get into this," he says.

One of the most basic questions any reader will ask is, "Is this technology for me?" According to Ess, this book can help a producer make that decision.

"If you were going to buy a yield monitor, you'd want to know the types on the market and how they differ," Ess says. "However, the book goes past just what technology is available now. It's no secret that the second generation of precision farming equipment is close to coming to market, and the book offers a peek at what this technology might look like."

In addition to laying out the fundamentals, the book also helps would-be users of site-specific farming determine how much of the technology is right for their operation. "It is critical to know how much yield varies across fields and farms," Ess says. "Totally consistent yields are not the goal. No one at this university would argue for totally consistent yields. The goal is to put inputs where they can best be utilized."

Although most farmers are aware of precision farming, the technology is still in its infancy. Even the most basic piece of equipment, the grain yield monitor, is found on an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 out of 600,000 combines in use, according to Ess. "And half of those yield monitors aren't GPS devices, so the users can't map their data," he says. "They can just watch the converted numbers roll by."

Precision farming, also known as site-specific farming, uses technologies such as GPS (global positioning systems), variable rate material applicators, and computer data bases to accurately place farm inputs such as fertilizer, herbicides and manure in the amounts needed at the specific places where they are needed.

At 117 pages, and containing almost 200 illustrations, the book covers these general topics:

In each of these chapters, the book examines not only the current technology, but the coming changes in precision farming. "The book will be useful for more than just the next six months," Morgan says.

One way precision farming will change will be the introduction of remote sensing, the authors say. "Even though not many farmers are using remote sensing technology, we included a chapter on that," Morgan says. "With dozens of remote sensing satellites -- including many commercial satellites -- going up over the next five years, there's a good chance that many farmers will have an opportunity to use this powerful tool."

The book is available for $25.95, plus $5 shipping and handling, from John Deere Publishing, (800) 522-7448.

Sources: Mark Morgan, (765) 494-1180; e-mail,
Dan Ess, (765) 494-6509; e-mail,
Writer: Steve Tally, (765) 494-9809; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: For a copy of the cover stat of the book, contact Cindy Calloway at John Deere Publishing, (800) 522-7448, or the Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2096.


This book by two Purdue agricultural and biological engineering professors is available for $25.95, plus $5 shipping and handling, from John Deere Publishing.

Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Morgan.Book

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