Irish agriculture mainly comprises of the small family farm. About 67 percent of the farms cover less than 50 acres (20 hectares), and another 25 percent are smaller than 20 acres (8 hectares). The number of people employed in agriculture continues to decrease as mechanization increases and young men and women find better-paying occupations in the cities. The number of agricultural workers in Ireland declined by about 50 percent between the years 1960 and 1991 (Britannica Student Encyclopedia, 2006). The future of Irish agriculture greatly depends on sustainable practices and proper economic planning. Precision agriculture is one of the best ways to increase farm production.
Precision Agriculture is now a term used throughout agricultural systems worldwide. Precision agriculture can be defined as a comprehensive system designed to optimize agricultural production through the application of crop information, advanced technology and management practices. Precision agriculture begins with crop planning and includes tillage, planting, chemical applications, harvesting, and post-harvest processing of the crop (Roberson, 2004).
Precision farming utilizes three technologies: Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and Variable Rate Technology (VRT). GPS provides navigation that can position a tractor within a few feet anywhere in a field. GIS computer systems capture, manage and analyze spatial data relating crop productivity and field inputs. VRT provides “on-the-fly” estimation of field inputs. Working in concert, GIS, GPS, and VRT provide information that allows producers to apply inputs, such as fertilizers and insecticides, precisely in a sustainable manner (Ball and Peterson 2001).
Further, the collected information may be used to more precisely evaluate optimum sowing density, estimate specifically fertilizers and other inputs needs, and to more accurately predict crop yields.