ACE3087 : Site Specific Crop Management in Arable UK Production Systems

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


• Instil an understanding of the main principles underlying the technologies and methodologies being used in Precision Farming (PF) in arable crops, and the limitations and opportunities associated with different technologies and methodologies
• Develop analytical skills for PF data sets
• Provide examples of the application and fusion of different PF technologies and methodologies into general on-farm management
• Promote decision-making processes and problem-solving skills in on-farm situations with PF

Outline Of Syllabus

General Introduction and Overview

Global Navigation Satellite Systems
•GPS operation segments                        
•C/A code ranging measurement and errors
•Differential correction options
•Carrier phase operation and RTK
•Reported accuracy/precision terms
•Map projections
•Applications and benefits in PA
-navigation and CTF, scouting, mapping, applying inputs
•Costs and planned system developments.

Variability in Space

Yield Variability
•Descriptors: total, average, mean, std deviation and variance, CV,variogram
•Changing means within paddocks
•Differences in variability between important cropping attributes.

Soil Variability
•Key soil attributes important to yield: total, average, mean, std deviation and variance, CV, variogram
•Variability in soil properties influences how crops grow across space
•Concept of a range in variability across farms and regions
•Variability in weeds, diseases and insects

Variability in Time

Yield Variability
•Concepts of annual and long term variation
•Knowledge is poor over long term especially at paddock level, better over national or regional scales - examples show total long term mean yield and variance and compare temporal subsets
•Variability in time at the field level with farmers data
•Technology, climate, technology x climate influences on temporal variability
•Concept of a range in variability across farms and regions - impact of rotations and potential use of normalisation of data
•Yield surrogates - remotely sensed data and crop simulation used to fill knowledge gaps or predict over time

Yield and Quality Measurement
•Basic measurement requirements and calculations for on-line sensing      
•Types of measurement systems/operation
•Convolution issues
•System calibration techniques
•Quality measurement options

Soil Measurement
•Measurement options for key soil attributes
•Costs of soil sampling
•Cost (sample number) versus precision
•Soil sampling designs
•Problems with cost versus sample number
•Cheaper measurement options (VIS, MIR)
•Soil ECa - electromagnetic induction and resistivity
•Gamma radiometrics
•Ground penetrating radar
•Soil pH
•Soil strength and moisture
•Future sensing/sampling systems

Remote Sensing for Crops and Soil
•Electromagnetic spectrum in relation to agriculture
•Observation platforms satellite/aerial
•Sensors available
•Resolutions - spatial, spectral, temporal
•Vegetation and Environmental indices, their rationale and uses

Proximal Crop and Soil Sensing
•Instruments and output
•Uses and comparison with remote sensors

Map Making
•Map grid model
•Using low density data
-moving mean, inverse distance, global kriging
•Using high density data
-moving mean, inverse distance, global kriging, local kriging, block kriging
•Effect of grid size and legends on perception
•Good/bad maps

Site-Specific Crop Management
•Potential benefits
•Management impetus
-yield, soil, pest variability
•Management options
-uniform, management units, continuous
•Opportunity for PA
-magnitude, distribution, economics of variability

Crop and soil management
•Important data layers
•Simple assessment from yield and soil ECa maps
•Decision support model for management options
•Decision support model for management class option
•Methods for making management classes
•Clustering /segmentation
•Clustering important data layers
•How to use management classes
-directed sampling
-yield goal calculations (traditional, variable-fertility based)
-experimentation for yield response
•Continuous management using crop canopy measurement
•Crop yield simulation      

Economics of PA
•Putting the costs together
•Site-specific gross margins
•Whole farm economics
•Environmental management and economics at present

Developing applications and theories
•Supply chain management and vertical integration
•Niche marketing
•Environmental focus

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion115:0015:00Final exam preparation and the examination
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion112:0012:00Magazine article for an industry journal – Written exercise. Includes prep for 5 min talk.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture101:0010:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical42:008:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching12:002:00Short seminar presentation by students
Guided Independent StudyProject work120:0020:00Project/Case study; Preparation and completion
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork52:0010:00Undertaken at Cockle Park
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study113:0013:00Independent reading and extra study beyond course material
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study101:0010:00Preparation and compilation of notes for lectures and practicals
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The intent with this practical and applied module is to build knowledge in this domain (Precision Farming -PF), develop skills to critically integrate information with basic agronomic knowledge and to develop skills to interact with those applying PF commercially i.e. growers and contract service suppliers (not scientists). The teaching is split roughly into

Lectures to provide background knowledge
Fieldwork to provide practical exposure to on-farm applications of technology and sensors
Practicals that have an emphasis on learning how to analysis precision farming data structures

Emphasis is placed on assessments to tie knowledge (lectures) together with collected and analysed data (literature, internet, fieldwork and practicals). This mirrors the information that graduates will be required to provide to end-users i.e. mirrors the requirements of many service providers.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1001A50The exam will be in 2 parts: 1) some multiple choice and short answer (30 mins) and 2) interpretation of data and recommendations.
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M20Magazine style article
Case study1A30Case study based on interpreting University farm data
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Oral Presentation1MIndivdiual topics selected by students. Linked to Magazine article. Peer reviewed for feedback to article production
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The oral presentation also assesses the ability of a student to research relevant information and to present this information in an oral context. This will also serve as a peer-to-peer teaching exercises with oral topics open to assessment in the final written exam. Oral presentations are formative assessments with feedback provided to assist students with the preparation and content
of the magazine article.

The magazine article follows on from the oral presentation topic so students build on the information gather for the oral presentation. Again it assesses a student’s ability to research and present pertinent and up-to-date information that is relevant to industry and end-users in a clear and concise manner.
The case study project will help develop skills for integrating and interpreting on-farm data sets and arrive at a decision-making process to provide recommendations to growers.
The written examination will test basic knowledge and comprehension of the topic (50%) and present another case study for analysis and interpretation.

Study abroad students may request a take-away exam paper to be returned via NESS.

Reading Lists