Running a Small Farm

4 Ways GIS Can Help Your Farm

by Myrtle Herrera

Geospatial information systems (GIS) is changing the way farming is done. GIS is the collection of geographical and spatial data sets that is then stored and analyzed. This detailed information makes managing your land and making decisions easier. GIS has invaluable uses in many industries, including agriculture. Here are four ways GIS can aid in agricultural practices.

GIS Can Analyze Soil Data

The GIS system can take the data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the government agency responsible for doing soil surveys, and analyze what crops would grow best on that particular soil profile. This in turn would increase yields. It can also help determine a crop rotation schedule.

When soil survey information is combined with a topography data set, the system can analyze areas that have the potential for erosion, such as sloped sites. Erosion can lead to pesticide runoff, which adversely affects the water supply and can cause problems such as algae bloom in streams and lakes, which then leads to fish death.

Outside of the United States, GIS technology can help reduce world hunger in third world countries by analyzing their terrain and soils and encouraging people to plant the right crops in the right areas. This will help to increase food production and alleviate starvation.

GIS Can Analyze Land Cover Changes

Satellite imagery can be compared from year to year to determine the affect climate change may be having on a region's topography. It can also eventually predict what changes this may have on the land cover and land use. It can also detect man-made forces, such as deforestation. For example, excess logging in some areas can cause a rise in soil temperature, which would render some crops unsuitable to grow there. It can also cause landslides in California or loss of wildlife habitat in the rain forest.

GIS Can Help Dairy Farmers

Data sets that show milk production areas, production rates, retail outlets, wholesale outlets, pricing, and supply and demand statistics can help farmers determine how many heifers to buy, what price to sell their milk at, where to sell, and where to physically position their farms in relation to their raw milk buyers.

GIS Can Show Where Irrigation Systems Should Be Placed

In drought-prone areas, irrigation systems are used to ensure entire crops are not lost. GIS can help determine the best placement for these systems. Water is a valuable resource that must be managed responsibly. A farmer doesn't want his water lost to runoff or evapotranspiration or an impermeable hard soil surface.

If you're a farmer, spending some of your hard-earned money on GIS consulting is money well spent. It helps take the guesswork out of planting your fields or managing your farm. For more information, contact local professionals like Allan R. Standen, LLC.