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Are unmanned vehicles the future in agriculture?


The latest technologies such as satellite navigation and unmanned autonomous vehicles do not stop at agriculture. In precision agriculture these techniques are used for variable rate spreading of fertilisers or pesticides. Using this technology the natural variability of soil fertility parameters within a field is taken into account, and the means of production are tailored to the crops specific needs in an ecologically desirable way.

Whereas in the industrial and service sector the introduction of satellite navigation systems gave dramatic new economic advances, the spread of precision agriculture is still quite insignificant since its introduction more than 10 years ago.

Scientists at the Institute of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science of the Federal Agricultural Research Centre (FAL) in Braunschweig, Germany say the main reason for this is the small economic advantage achieved by the reduction of inputs. Precision agriculture’s main advantage is the reduction of fertiliser use. However fertilizer costs have been falling for several years and so their cost saving is not enough to finance the expensive navigationalequipment needed for the technique itself.

The potential for making economies in agriculture can only be achieved by a reduction of wage or by an increase in the efficiency of capital investments. The use of so-called smart navigation systems in agriculture, working the fields autonomously can lead to a breakthrough in ecologically sound precision agriculture. As well as the reduction of wage costs, also the overall efficiency of the agricultural machinery in operation can be increased.

Further details from: Prof. Dr. Dr. Ewald Schnug, Federal Agricultural Research Centre (FAL), Institute for Plant Nutrition and Soil Science, Bundesallee 50, 38116 Braunschweig, E-Mail:

Margit Fink | idw
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