Crop Protection Using Precision Farming Method
Joshua Agama (Lead Writer), Chidindu Mmadu-Okoli, Gabriel Eze
“The war against hunger is truly mankind’s war of liberation.” — John F. Kennedy
The global burden of food insecurity is associated with an exponential rise in the world’s population. By the year 2050, the human race will require a 70% increase in food production to feed its estimated population of 9 billion people. Nigeria still experiences persistent food crises, alongside increasing cases of malnutrition. As countries like China and USA, invest heavily in new and sustainable agricultural technology, Nigeria’s crop producers, who happen to be the front liners in this fight, contributing over 90% of total national agricultural yield, face high outcome risk due to factors that may hinder the quality and quantity of food crops produced. To reverse this, modern methods must be adopted to ensure crop protection and increase in yields.
In Nigeria, smallholder farmers make up about 80% of the food producers’ population, often working on land plots smaller than 2 hectares. The majority of these smallholder farmers are poor, face severe food shortages and have limited access to information, markets and services. The Nigerian government has through many agricultural schemes tried to increase their productivity by making available access to finance, improved seedlings, etc. But these measures have not particularly tackled the problems related to crop protection.
The managerial practices involved in controlling weeds, pests and diseases, as well as other abiotic (non-biological) factors that might lead to the damage of agricultural crops is referred to as crop protection. Weeds, pests and diseases are undesirable components of the farm, which compete with crops for growth resources. Their presence can infect, consume or damage crops, subsequently leading to a significant fall in quantity and quality of food production. The challenges of abiotic stress on plant growth and development, such as drought, salinity, extreme temperature, wind turbulence and pollutants, also cause crop losses worldwide.
Through time, man has devised many innovations to wade off these unforeseen threats. These practices target the aforementioned undesirables, and treat crop diseases and infections as well. Although the majority of these control systems are flawed either by the cost of operation, poor effectiveness, or/and associated environmental impact, there has been tremendous evolution in crop protection methods over the years: from cultural, biological, and chemical control, to more plant-based pesticides, synthetic products, and precision techniques in weed/pest control. The constant change in crop protection measures and tools are for more sustainability, efficiency, and environmental considerations.
Crop protection products (e.g. agrochemicals) and programs help control these undesirable farm elements. It is predicted that crop losses could double without putting in place proper protection mechanisms. Agrochemicals, commonly known as pesticides can be classified into fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, and others, depending on the type of pest. Besides pests and weed control, some agrochemicals are used to correct soil chemical compositions. Mechanical means such as scarecrows, and sound installations have also been employed to scare off avian pests (and other vertebrates) that are more resistant to pesticides.
Advancement in innovative crop protection methods are pivotal in preventing crop losses; as well as improving the overall livelihood of smallholder farmers. One of such innovations is precision technology, which today, has made food production more accurate, and effective.
With precision technology, farmers have the opportunity to apply one or more of the agricultural pest/weed control methods. These supportive technologies work with integrated control programs to enable farmers vary application of agrochemicals timing and dosage, intensity of mechanical weeding, optimize pesticide mixtures, and manage heterogeneity of application. Farmers can prevent the over- and/or under-dosing of pesticides, which may be inefficient, uneconomical and environmentally detrimental. Using geo-mapping and remote sensing technologies in combination with informatics and modern application technologies, environmental disruption (e.g. wind, temperature change, flooding etc) can be forecasted, and farmers can take consequent actions in protecting their crops.
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