GIS data 🛰

GIS in Agriculture

Farming is more sophisticated than it ever was. Good farmers do lots of planning and analysis. Information like soil type, soil characteristics, water sources and climate are important for strategic planning. Soil fertility and historic crop yield are important for precision farming purposes. By using GIS in agriculture, farms can be more profitable because informed farmers can achieve higher crop yields and they can reduce waste. | Source

Droughts, floods, swarms of insects and poor farming techniques have plagued the agricultural community for centuries. Improvements have been made to insure the safety and gain of crops worldwide and yet these factors and many more continue to make or break individuals and communities affected by them.

Geographic Information Systems are incredibly helpful in being able to map and project current and future fluctuations in precipitation, temperature, crop output, and more. | Source

GIS can be used by agricultural agencies to support pesticide and food safety regulations, show economic impacts of policy, reveal environmental health issues, depict animal health and welfare issues, record data about an area, and arbitrate land use conflicts. GIS is an effective, proven technology in government. | Source

Speaking of tools, geospatial technology in agriculture relies on satellites, aircraft, drones, and sensors. These tools are used to make images and connect them with maps and non-visualized data. As a result, you get a map featuring crop position and health status, topography, soil type, fertilization, and similar information. | Source

Agricultural mapping

Technological innovations and geospatial technology help in creating a dynamic and competitive agriculture which is protective of the environment and capable of providing excellent nutrition to the people. While natural inputs in farming cannot be controlled, they can be better understood and managed with GIS applications. GIS can substantially help in effective crop yield estimates, soil amendment analyses and erosion identification and remediation. More accurate and reliable crop estimates help reduce uncertainty.

A central issue in agricultural development is the necessity to increase productivity, employment, and income of poor segments of the agricultural population, and by applying GIS in agriculture, this situation can be addressed. GIS tools and online web resources are helping farmers to conduct crop forecasting and manage their agriculture production by utilizing multispectral imagery collected by satellites. The ability of GIS to analyze and visualize agricultural environments and workflows has proven to be very beneficial to those involved in the farming industry. GIS has the capability to analyze soil data and determine which crops should be planted where and how to maintain soil nutrition so that the plants are best benefitted. | Source

The real power of GIS, though, lies in its ability to analyze multiple data layers or variables. Simple examples of this within the realm of agriculture would be; a map showing the number of farm injuries by county, or the number of crop acres lost to flood by tax map parcel. The polygons representing different ownership or municipalities can convey the change in values in different ways, the most common being a changing color ramp.

More complex spatial analyses for agriculture might compare variables like soil type, wind direction, rainfall amount, slope, aspect, topography, or elevation to assist with crop management, site suitability, and drainage planning, as well as risk prevention from flood, drought, erosion, and disease. GIS can help a farmer adapt to these different variables, monitor the health of individual crops, estimate yields from a given field, and maximize crop production. There are many sources for GIS data free of charge and also for a fee. Universities, government agencies, and private companies are all repositories of spatial data. The New York State government hosts a GIS clearinghouse with a great variety of datasets, some available to the public and some to clearinghouse members only. Some of these data include addresses, watersheds, aerial photography, municipal boundaries, district boundaries, tax map parcels, and road networks. Another GIS-based resource available for free to the public is the USDA’s CropScape, an interactive web-based mapping application which shows the type, quantity, and location of crops growing across the US. By using land-use and primary food crop statistics, along with data collected by satellites and mobile devices to identify areas in need and underlying causes of food insecurity, GIS is also instrumental in the efforts to end global hunger. | Source

Want to know more about GIS?

Using GIS as an Agricultural Land-Use Planning Tool

Read a paper about this topic:


Soil survey data and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are important tools in land use planning. Intertwined, they represent an invaluable and underutilized resource. A high intensity soil survey was created for the Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center (SPAREC) in Blackstone, Virginia. The soils information was recompiled from an uncorrected aerial photographic base to a USGS topographic base map. Soils data were added to numerous other data layers and images. Interpretation maps, flooding frequency maps, and runoff maps were created from map unit interpretive records (MUIR). Additional soil and timber data were collected by field visits. The soil based-GIS made the decision-making process more accurate, automated, and efficient. It is a dynamic product that serves to convert verbal communication into visual communication while preventing information overload.

By Kriton K. Hatzios, Director
Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061-0402


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