Future Directions of Precision Agriculture
Australian Centre for Precision Agriculture, McMillan Building A05, The University of Sydney, New South
Wales 2006, Australia
Formerly Laboratory for Soil Science & Geology, Wageningen University & Research Centre, Post Box 37,
6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
Abstract. Precision Agriculture is advancing but not as fast as predicted 5 years ago. The development of
proper decision-support systems for implementing precision decisions remains a major stumbling block to
adoption. Other critical research issues are discussed, namely, insuﬃcient recognition of temporal varia-
tion, lack of whole-farm focus, crop quality assessment methods, product tracking and environmental
auditing. A generic research programme for precision agriculture is presented. A typology of agriculture
countries is introduced and the potential of each type for precision agriculture discussed.
Keywords: site-speciﬁc crop management, resource economics
The brief of this paper is to discuss the possible developments in, and impediments
to, precision agriculture (PA) in the world external to the United States of America,
i.e., most of the world (95.4% of the world’s population, 87.7% of the arable land,
81.3% of the tractors)—a tall order. Nevertheless there are some trends that will
probably drive the direction of PA worldwide, and some that will be more inﬂuential
in diﬀerent regions. We shall focus on those trends here.
This paper is dedicated to the memory of Pierre Robert who did more than anyone
to develop and popularise precision agriculture (Robert, 1993, 1999, 2002). The
deﬁnition of precision agriculture is still evolving as technology changes and our
understanding of what is achievable grows. Over the years the emphasis has changed
from simply ‘‘farming by soil’’ (Robert, 1993), through variable-rate technologies, to
vehicle guidance systems and will evolve to product quality and environmental
management. At various places throughout the world the degree of development,
and consequently the focus, varies. In new countries (or new crop commodities),
yield mapping and the option of variable-rate application of inputs are generally
what gets things started as a means to save costs while, in time, product quality
comes more into focus. When governments learn about PA, environmental
Invited paper, 7th International Conference on Precision Agriculture, Minneapolis, USA, July 2004.
Precision Agriculture, 6, 7–23, 2005
Ó 2005 Springer Science+Business Media Inc. Manufactured in The Netherlands.