Over at the popular forum newagtalk, a thread was started at the end of the year about what agricultural technologies would help drive yields to even greater levels or further improve the increase the efficiency of those in the agricultural sector. It’s a popular site, frequented by commercial growers, and speculators in the commodities markets.
Drones and Further Automation
Drones have been gaining more and more popularity as of late and it’s hard to find anyone planting these days without GPS in their rig. However, whereas a lot of farmers are using drones to clip on a go-pro and take videos of their planting or harvest, and some more are starting to use them to do remote field scouting and monitoring, they are at the very forefront of acceptance for more complex and mission critical tasks.
Flying drones for field scouting
Popular ideas included scouting for pests, moisture issues, checking on the irrigation/pivot, or even checking liquid fertilizer applications through the irrigation lines — also known as “fertigation” (see wiki definition here)
Ground based drones for cultivation, pest, and weed control
Some contributors offered that we might have autonomous cultivators or smaller ground units that would be responsible for finding and eliminating weeds.
Advances in the Microbiome
Some growers thought that there might be some yield advances yet in some of the breakthroughs in microbial fertilizers.
Scientists like Elaine Ingrahm have been touting the use of compost teas for a more natural way to promote the web of living micro-organisms in the soil and get better yields but they had mostly been trialed by growers of specialty crops.
Lower value broadacre farmers growing row-crops weren’t able to deal wih the requirements of active aeration and the sensitivity of the microbes didn’t mesh well with their more rough and tumble farming techniques built of the chemical age of agriculture.
Recently however, some growers are starting to break decades long yield records using commercially available fertilizers like this compost tea microbial fertilizer.
What’s clear is we know very little about the microbial world in our soil and the future is wide open for advancements in this arena.
Genetic Plant Biological Manipulations
Whether you love or hate GM crops, chances are, they are here to stay in some form or another. Besides the ubiquitous “round-up ready” varieties of crops, there have been some new advancements made in the understanding of intercellular signaling that could signal a significant advancement in yields in just around the corner.
In short, these scientist have found that they can interfere with the corn plant’s natural signal for when to stop growing grain. If they do this just enough, they can boost the corn plants yield by as much as 50%. Exciting times indeed. Here’s a great video that touches on what’s coming for the new green revolution in agriculture that’s right in front of us.