Precision agriculture is a comprehensive system that relies on information, technology and management to optimize agricultural production. While used since the mid-1980s in agronomic crops, it is attracting increasing interest in horticultural crops. Relatively high per acre crop values for some horticultural crops and crop response to variability in soil and nutrients makes precision agriculture an attractive production system. Precision agriculture efforts in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at North Carolina State University are currently focused in two functional areas: site-specific management and postharvest process management. Much of the information base, technology, and management practices developed in agronomic crops have practical and potentially profitable applications in fruit and vegetable production. Mechanized soil sampling, pest scouting and variable rate control systems are readily adapted to horticultural crops. Yield monitors are under development for many crops that can be mechanically harvested. Investigations have begun to develop yield monitoring capability for hand harvested crops. Postharvest controls are widely used in horticultural crops to enhance or protect product quality.
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