The Upper Midwest Aerospace Consortium has developed a crop and range alert system to provide farmers, ranchers, land managers from the Native American Community, government agencies and non-governmental organizations with frequent and near real time remote sensing data to enable decisions that both maximize the producer's income and protect the environment. The project, started in 1999, includes the establishment of a learning community network of end users, fast delivery of data to remote locations, applications development and training.
More than a hundred and fifty end users and research scientists participated in this learning group in which information is shared in all directions. Over fifty end users were connected via high-bandwidth satellite link to a central distribution system at the University of North Dakota. They received and shared products derived from AVHRR, MODIS, Landsat, IKONOS and aerial platforms. A number of practical applications were developed for precision farming, such as zone-based nitrogen management, stress detection, spray drift detection, and for rangeland management, such as weed detection, livestock carrying capacity, and livestock field rotations.
Several instances of cost savings and higher earnings occurred. More importantly, the imagery use resulted in lesser use of chemicals in farming and ranching, leading to environmental benefits.
In the U.S. Northern Great Plains, growing seasons are short but extremely productive. Farms and ranches are large, so many of precision agriculture's early adopters reside in the region. Crop yield maps at season's end reveal sizable variations across fields. Farm management relying upon uniform chemical applications is ineffective and wasteful. We provided information about crop and range status in near- real-time, so that in-season decisions could be made to optimize final yields and minimize environmental degradation. We created learning communities, in which information is shared among scientists, farmers, ranchers, and data providers. The new information for agricultural producers was satellite and aerial imagery. Value-added information was derived from ETM+, AVHRR, IKONOS, and MIDOS sensors. The emphasis was on reducing the time between acquisition of data by a satellite and delivery of value-added products to farmers and ranchers. To distribute large spatial data sets in short times to rural users we relied upon satellite transmission (Direct PC). Results include: (1) management zone delineation, (2) variable-rate fertilizer applications, (3) weed detection, (4) irrigation efficiency determination, (5) detection of insect infestation, (6) specification of crop damage due to inadvertent chemical application, and (7) determination of livestock carrying capabilities on rangelands.