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Precision agriculture in smallholder systems: From innovation to evidence

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Alejandro Nin-Pratt, Jawoo Koo, and David J Spielman, International Food Policy Research Institute

Presented at the ReSAKSS-Asia conference “Agriculture and Rural Transformation in Asia: Past Experiences and Future Opportunities”. An international conference jointly organized by ReSAKSS-Asia, IFPRI, TDRI, and TVSEP project of Leibniz Universit Hannover with support from USAID and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) at the Dusit Thani Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand December 12–14, 2017.

Published in: Economy & Finance
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Precision agriculture in smallholder systems: From innovation to evidence

  1. 1. Precision agriculture in smallholder systems From innovation to evidence Alejandro Nin-Pratt, Jawoo Koo, and David J Spielman International Food Policy Research Institute Washington, DC
  2. 2. Precision Agriculture (PA) • Is an approach to farm management that uses information technology (IT) to control for intra-field variability in crops and environment, ensuring that crops and soil receive the exact amount of inputs needed to increase profitability, sustainability and protection of the environment. Deere & Company, 2014
  3. 3. The information technologies in PA • Location determination (via the Global Positioning System, GPS), • Computerized geographic information systems (GIS), • Computer-guided controllers for variable rate application (VRA) of crop inputs, and • Sensing technologies for automated data collection and mapping.
  4. 4. Most used PA practices The GPS and GIS technologies underpin the two major PA practices that farmers have adopted: 1. Nutrient management: Involves spatially referenced soil sampling, linked to VRA fertilizer spreading. 2. Yield monitoring, usually tied to yield mapping Credit:RhiannanPrice(DigitalGlobe)Credit:RhiannanPrice(DigitalGlobe)
  5. 5. Could these technologies benefit smallholders? • Does PA has the potential to improved economic results of smallholder producers? • How do they affect crop yields and revenues? Is there clear evidence of improved yields when using these technologies? • What is the impact of PA on costs? • How does affect risks and variability of results? • Is PA biased against smallholders?
  6. 6. Food Security in a World of Natural Resource Scarcity: The Role of Agricultural Technologies • Global & regional • Eleven technologies • Three crops: • Wheat • Rice • Maize • No-Tillage • Integrated Soil Fertility Management • Organic Agriculture • Precision Agriculture • Crop Protection • Drip Irrigation • Sprinkler Irrigation • Water Harvesting • Drought Tolerance • Heat Tolerance • Nitrogen Use Efficiency
  7. 7. Modelling tools DSSAT • Biophysical model - Simulate plant growth and crop yield by variety day-by-day, in response to a technology at crop-specific locations using local climate, soil and topographical attributes.  IMPACT Global economic agricultural model - Assesses changes in productivity due to technology adoption and its impacts on: ˗ Food production, consumption, trade ˗ International food prices ˗ Calorie availability, food security
  8. 8. Modelling the impact of PA The multiple effects of PA are implemented using three components: • Higher/optimum planting density for each crop; • Enhanced inorganic fertilizer application scheduling based on the growth stage of the crop • Optimum planting window, assuming a 25-millimeter rainfall event on the planting date.
  9. 9. Yields: Will it Make a Difference? Global-scale adoption of water and nutrition-efficient management practices can increase cereal productivity by 8-26%. Global Crop Modeling Results YieldChange(%)forMaize,Rice,andWheat,2050vs.Baseline Source:Rosegrantetal.2014
  10. 10. Not only PA Good management decisions can increase maize yields by 40% when combined with other inputs (improved seeds and fertilizer) Regional Crop Modeling Results | Mbeya, Tanzania YieldChange(%)forMaize,FertilizerxSeedsxAgronomy Source:Rosegrantetal.2014
  11. 11. Adoption of PA technologies • Most attractive where capital is abundant relative to management labor • Considering that they improve the efficiency of input use in mechanized agriculture, they are likely to be adopted first in those places where input use is already relatively efficient. • Higher probability of adoption where the scale of a single field is large relative to the temporal variation in crop yield. If the opposite is true, then the optimal risk aversion strategy is uniform management.
  12. 12. Opportunities for small and medium farmers • Most benefits expected in regions where small farmers are already producing efficiently with high levels of inputs and controlled environment (relatively low inter-temporal variation). • PA could contribute to a better management of the environment, helping farmers use the right inputs, at the right time, in the right amount and at the right place • Advances in IT in the longer run could favor the adoption of PA by medium and small scale farmers by reducing the bias of the technology favoring large capital-intensive farmers: • Hand held soil and other sensors linked to cell phones • Robotics for planting, weeding, pest management and harvesting fruit, vegetables and other hard to mechanize crops • Pooling data for better management insights
  13. 13. What would be needed for smallholders to seize this opportunity? Public good aspects of PA • Multinational companies may not recognize the opportunity early in the process. Local research and development will probably require public investment and innovation policies Other policies that contribute to technical change • Investment, regulatory, and financial policies • Entrepreneurship that creates supply chains that favor adoption of innovations

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