MANILA – The application of data science in farming is poised to help the local agriculture improve yield potential of crops and help farmers make better on-farm management decisions. This was shared by Hazel Bograd, Monsanto Data Science and Analytics Manager for Asia Pacific at a recent roundtable discussion held at Makati City.
“Farmers around the globe are being asked to do more to keep up with the growing demands and manage key challenges that prevent food from making it to tables. Among a broad range of solutions, advanced plant breeding techniques and the application of data science are key elements working together to contribute to a food-secure future,” Bograd said.
According to Bograd, interconnected challenges of rising population, increasing food consumption and depleting finite natural resources, such as water and land, both of which critical to sustain food production, are putting pressure on local food production.
The population in Asia alone is expected to grow to 5.9 billion by 2050, while demand for food is expected to rise by 60% to 70%. But experts are warning that as early as 2025 a 1-hectare of farmland that previously feeds two (2) people, will have to feed five (5) people. Every season, farmers also work to mitigate pressures from insects, weeds and diseases on their crops.
Bograd explained that by applying data science in plant breeding, Monsanto facilitates the development of new seed products that improve nutrient uptake, promote growth and yield, and provide insect control and disease protection.
In delivering new seed products, Monsanto is learning from plant data through seed chipper tool and molecular breeding. Learning from the seeds, scientists use the seed chipper tool to genetically screen each seed and identify novel traits. Molecular breeding, meanwhile, creates the inventory of a plant’s genes and what those genes do.
Today, scientists from Monsanto now have the capability to analyze 10s of millions of seed samples each year to look for the next best breeding trait.
Harnessing Data for Precision Agriculture
Application of big data in agriculture is also helping farmers around the globe gain valuable farm-level insights necessary for precision planting. Field-level insights, such as soil health and climate patterns, are especially important to farmers as they make forty to fifty critical decisions involving various factors such as how much they can grow and how efficiently they can do it.
Among corn farmers in the Philippines, climatic information and forecasts are especially major considerations before planting, as decisions inappropriate to climatic conditions result in 75% of annual losses in farm production.
Bograd explained that advanced field-tracking tools, such as plant sensors and weather satellites, are now being used to measure and analyze all the interactions happening on the field, including soil moisture, rainfall, plant health, temperatures, etc. After conducting a field analysis, a field-by-field prescription to the farmer is given, recommending the best hybrid to plant, and water and crop protection products to apply to their fields, among others.
“Understanding the unique challenges and conditions of the field allow farmers to maximize every harvest season,” Bograd said, “By harnessing these digital technologies, we are able to put valuable information into the hands of our farmers to help them be more productive on each hectare of their land.” pr