This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, from http://voaspecialenglish.com | http://facebook.com/voalearningenglish Precision agriculture is a way of thinking about how to improve production and get more from existing resources. It often involves the use of technology. An example found mostly in wealthier countries is a computer-guided tractor. The computer does most of the driving. It uses signals from satellites in the Global Positioning System. GPS technology helps the tractor cut rows in straight lines and put the right amount of fertilizer in the right place. Jimmy Messick is a farmer in northern Virginia. He says the GPS guidance system makes it easy to come back later and plant the seed in his fields of maize, or corn. The tractor with equipment for planting seeds has the same guidance system as the one that spreads fertilizer on the fields. Because of the GPS guidance, Mr. Messick now pays half what he once did for fertilizer.Bruce Erickson is an agronomist at Purdue University in Indiana. He says saving even a small amount of seed, pesticide or fertilizer "computes directly to cost savings and less environmental damage."Raj Khosla is an agronomist at Colorado State University. He says farmers in the developing world can use precision agriculture even without large, complex machinery. And he believes they could use something as simple as a bottle cap. The idea is to use a bottle cap to pour a measured amount of fertilizer right next to each plant. It takes more work than simply throwing handfuls of fertilizer across a field. Raj Khosla says researchers taught this bottle cap method to farmers in Africa. They found that it was worth the extra effort if they could only afford very little fertilizer. He says there was a major difference, more than double in terms of productivity. New technology is not always cheap. But Mr. Khosla says farmers could form a cooperative or combine their resources to pay for new equipment. He and other researchers worked with a farmer in India to precision-level his irrigated wheat fields. That kept the fields from developing wet and dry areas that reduced productivity. The farmer also added better fertilizers and insect control. As a result, he was able to grow almost three times as much wheat on the same amount of land. With the extra money the farmer made, and a small loan, he bought his own precision leveler. And now, for a fee, he offers that as a service to other farmers.For VOA Special English, I'm Carolyn Presutti. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 22May2012)
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