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NCERA_OLD180: Site-Specific Management

Statement of Issues and Justification

The concept of site-specific management (SSM), or precision agriculture (PA), holds significant potential for agriculture in the North Central Region, the United States and the world. The process of applying innovative technologies and principles to manage spatial and temporal variability in crop production is both a promising and challenging scientific enterprise. Promising in that today's technologies need to be guided by principles developed through a multi-scalar approach to research, and challenging in that a true PA system needs to be founded on an interdisciplinary approach. The NCR-180 was formed to explore these promises while addressing these challenges.

Interest continues to build in the agricultural community as producers view SSM as an avenue to improved crop management, enhanced productivity profitability in an increasingly global economy, and the potential for reduced adverse environmental impact of their operations. The most recent survey on adoption of SSM executed by the Center for Agricultural Business, Purdue University, June 2000 concludes that "precision technology and services continue to grow and expand in the agricultural market among both growers and retail agronomic dealerships". Research by Daberkow and McBride of the USDA Economic Research Service found a 1998 national adoption rate of 4 covering 14 of all crop acres. The adoption was concentrated in the Midwest where 11 of all producers use one or more of the PA technologies. However a highly variable and uncertain marketplace appeared to have slowed past rapid growth in some regions. The adoption of the SSM concept brings very significant changes in farm practices and use of information technologies. It presents important challenges to the faculties of land grant universities in developing appropriate research and outreach activities to support this transition.

SSM is a broad-based concept, drawing on the expertise and experience of a number of disciplines. To respond to this need, NCR-180 members and participants represent crop, soil, and weed sciences; entomology, plant pathology, agricultural engineering, applied economics, and agricultural sociology. NCR-180 is perhaps unique for providing a critical linkage for multi- disciplinary communication and interaction among the scientists conducting both research and extension activities. Annual meetings provide a forum for in-depth discussion and analysis of new research developments and coordination of present and future multi-state projects.

Members of the NCR-180 originally explored many of the "intuitive" or what appeared to be simple approaches to achieving SSM. Various models and analytical frameworks were developed and tested based on varying inputs relative to soil properties, water and climatic processes. These early efforts led to the recognition that the current approach of the NCR-180 (i.e., a multidisciplinary approach to the salient intellectual challenges of SSM) has the greatest potential to develop the science of SSM. Another critical feature of the NCR-180 is the partnerships that have been developed with producers, producer groups and the private sector. This provides a constant check to members to produce sound science that also has applicable and appropriate results for their various constituencies. Finally, today's scientist must also be concerned with the training of scientists for tomorrow. Communication and coordination of relevant materials that can be used in the curriculum of our universities is an on-going responsibility of NCR-180 members.

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