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Precision agriculture advancement for Ontario

Principal Investigator

Mike Duncan, Ian McDonald, Nicole Rabe & Ben Rosser

Research Institution

Niagara College (Duncan) / Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)

External Funding Partners

This project was funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.

Project Start

April 2014

Project End

October 2017


  • Develop a web-based portal for site-specific geospatial data storage and sharing; and provide transparent mathematics as a teaching tool for the Ontario grain farmer audience.
  • Develop a protocol for collecting various field characteristics, and creating digital layers of farm field characteristics to enable comparisons/correlations.
  • Provide an electronic infrastructure that can provide algorithms and protocols to define management zones.
  • Determine and demonstrate the cost/benefit (economic and environment) value of precision agriculture and variable-rate application protocols through on-farm case studies.
  • Develop methods that allow producers to validate precision agriculture practices on their farms.


  • The assessment of the value of data layers that can be used to create management zones, in the absence of historical yield data on the farm. This will allow producers to be more confident in their management zones for their fields or adopt new methods of producing management zones.
  • The validation of precision agriculture practices on farms can facilitate greater adoption of the practices and increase farm business competitiveness both economically and environmentally.

Scientific Summary

GPS-enabled farm technology offers the opportunity to divide a farm field into multiple geographically separate areas, each defined by different management practices. The ultimate value of adopting precision agriculture technologies is producer empowerment. This includes finer control of their business, the ability to spatially control inputs by matching inputs to yield potential across the field. This is done with management zones, and it challenges the current ‘blanket application’ of inputs that many farm operations still use. Managing crop inputs site-specifically allows them to be used with optimal efficiency; for instance, it could allow for inputs to be applied in a manner that takes into account landscape limitations, such as topographic location, and soil texture within each field. Precision application of crop inputs is possible at this time; however, the tools to define defendable management zones, and validate decisions are not currently robust.

The overall purpose of the project is to validate protocols that define management zones within farm fields, and the prescription maps produced by management zones through on-farm research. The project will include at least 10 farmers and 20 fields that have the appropriate GPS-enabled infrastructure, approximately 3 years of calibrated yield maps and associated data, and will provide it as the base data layers for their fields. Through field assessment, data mining, algorithm development and equipment deployment, this project will test the geospatial management theories developed by the partners involved in the project. The Crop Portal will act as the central data repository and will provide access to both data and developed tools. The Crop Portal also has educational value by providing transparent mathematics as a teaching tool for the Ontario grain farmer audience. The research approach is to use data layers to delineate management zones with the best possible resolution, and these will be compared with base data, management zone theories, and identified trends. The farm consultant partners in the project will work with each producer to provide a data-based perspective of their fields, exploit the characteristics of their fields, and use the data in order to create an acceptable (within the project scope) definition of management zones and protocols for field inputs. Annual observations, rigorous field testing and monitoring will assess the viability and validity of the management zone definitions.