Advancing Precision Agriculture in Tennessee

Handheld computers equipped with geospatial software are an increasingly useful tool in agriculture. Used to scout for insects and disease, to establish field boundaries for fertilizer and seeding needs, or even to estimate the amount of fence needed for a new pasture, these units are finding practical application with more and more producers.

Recognizing this emerging technology, U.T. Extension has initiated a pilot program to put equipment and software in Extension agentsí hands and train them in its use. Since December, Mike Buschermohle and Tim Prather of the Biosystems Engineering & Environmental Science Department have been conducting ongoing training with the agents selected for this program.

Each agent received a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) equipped with a GPS receiver and Geographical Information System (GIS) software. Training sessions have been held in Jackson and Milan, with follow-up personal consultations as needed. Training has emphasized hands-on operation, and has included basic PDA functions, geospatial applications, and an introduction to precision agricultural technologies such as GPS receivers, lightbars, yield monitors, and remote sensing.

In the aftermath of the training, additional agents are expressing interest and beginning to budget for similar capabilities in their Extension programs. As geospatial technology for precision agriculture is incorporated into Extension work plans, producers will benefit.

Joel Lown
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