How modern row-crop agriculture is quickly evolving from a precision-based to a decision-based farming model and how producers can extract the most advantage from these changes will be the topics of a series of workshops scheduled for February in three locations throughout Alabama and Georgia.

The workshops will be held Tuesday, Feb. 25 at the NESPAL Seminar Room at the University of Georgia’s Tifton campus in Tifton, Ga.; Thursday, Feb. 27 at the Wiregrass Research and Extension Center Auditorium in Headland, Ala.; and Friday, Feb. 28 at the E.V. Smith Research Center Conference Facility in Shorter, Ala.

“These workshops will not only provide producers with an opportunity to get a hands-on feel for cutting edge precision farming techniques, but also to interact with some of the leading precision agricultural scholars in the United States and Europe,” says Brenda Ortiz, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System specialist and assistant professor in the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences at Auburn University.

“This is a very unique offering to growers that will feature precision farming experts not only from Auburn University and the University of Georgia, but also from three leading European universities.”

“These workshop speakers will provide examples of how site-specific management of agricultural inputs, aided by the use of precision-agriculture technologies, can result in increases in input use and efficiency and reduction of year-to-year variability,” Ortiz says.

“Precision farming generates an incredible amount of data and challenges producers to interpret and act on this data.  One of the goals of these workshops is to ensure our farmers can derive the most advantage from this trove of data that precision farming technology increasingly is providing.”

Next big challenge

Following the welcome and introductions, George Vellidis, a professor in the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, will discuss what he perceives as the next big challenge in precision agriculture: precision irrigation.

Following Velldis’ remarks, Franceso Morari, an associate professor in the Department of Agronomy, Foods, Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Padova in Italy, will discuss how crop sensors and weather forecasting can be combined to improve the variable-rate applications of nitrogen in durum wheat.

Ortiz will follow Morari’s remarks with a presentation on optimizing variable-rate nitrogen management in corn and cotton.

Later in the morning, Theofanis Gemtos, professor and head of Laboratory of Farm Mechanization at the University of Thessaly in Greece, will discuss the art and science of soil sampling for precision agriculture.

Rounding out the morning, Markus Gandorfer, an agricultural economist with the Technical University of Munich, will discuss the economics of precision agricultural technology at the farm level.

Following lunch, participants can participate in a series of hands-on precision farming-related exercises and demonstrations, which will include precision planting in row crops; converting yield maps to profit maps; using crop sensors for input management in row crops; and creating management zones.

The series of workshops is a testament to the increasingly global nature of farming, and particularly precision farming, according to Ortiz.

“The TransAtlantic Precision Agricultural Consortium, which is holding these workshops, is the outgrowth of a series of student exchanges among three American and three European universities that focused on precision farming and that was led by the University of Georgia’s Vellidis,” she says.

In 2010, this effort was expanded with a grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which enabled students seeking careers in precision farming to complete their master’s degrees.

Europe is one continent where precision farming adoption is being stepped up at a rapid pace — a change Ortiz attributes to mounting environmental concerns.

The workshops are free, but registration is required. Continuing Education Units (CEUs) will be available.

To register via e-mail for the Georgia workshop, contact yiorgos@uga.edu. To register via e-mail for one of the Alabama workshops, contact bortiz@auburn.edu.