Precision Farming : A personal experience


Ntsikane Maine
Ph.D. student and lecturer
in the Department of Agricultural Economics
University of the Free State
Precision agriculture is not just about buying the precision ag equipment, getting it onto a farm and running it on the field. After a long deliberation of the choice of the model or even manufacturer, a great deal of work lies ahead. Even for researchers, research on precision agriculture is not just about obtaining input and yield data from the farmer and proceeding with the analysis.

Mr Thabo van Zyl (left) from the farm Rietgat, Bothaville, SAA researcher should be involved every step of the crop production, making sure that farming activities commensurate with the objectives of the research and that the anticipated data can be obtained. This calls for a build up of a mutual relationship between the farmer and a researcher. Ntsikane Maine has this kind of relationship with Mr Thabo van Zyl. Before planting, the two sit together to plan the experimental design. This is to make sure that it does not disturb normal farming activities too much, while it leads to the attainment of the objectives.
During planting, the first most important activity, Ms Maine is always on the farm until the experimental field has been planted in totality. She also visits the farm from time to time during the growing season, to observe the growth in Aher field@, as she passionately calls the field. Harvesting is the other most important activity that needs her presence.
She literally sits in the combine the whole harvesting time, making sure the data is recorded accordingly. Well, this is a busy lady.The implementation of precision agriculture is not a one-man business. At times, experiences and expertise of some people have to be sought. Even during planning, some knowledgeable people are invited to provide advice. We have been blessed with the availability of the expertise in precision agriculture field as we often call on certain individuals to solicit help. Quite fortunately, these poor men are always willing to sacrifice their time to offer help.
We would like to thank particularly Mr Oosthuizen from SuIdwes Landbou and Mr Christo Helm. Sponsorship of Senwes in the soil survey of this field is highly appreciated, as the data collected has contributed immensely in the analysis. New Holland, the main sponsor of this research is acknowledged deeply and we are forever indebted to them.The help of Mr Van Zyl is immeasurable as frequently, he is either called or visited in order to assist in making sense of some results during the analysis. What more can a farmer do as a social service than to offer his field for research, paying for all the inputs?That is a risk in itself, considering what Albert Einstein, the scientist of all times said about research:
If we knew what it is we are doing, it would not be called a research”.Well, we really don’t know what we are doing on Thabo’s field, but we are sure doing a ‘research’.