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Using technology to outsmart nature
No one plays a greater role in the success or failure of farming than Mother Nature herself. Too much or too little rain, temperatures that are too high or too low, wind or snow and ice storms – all of these can wreak havoc on livestock and crops.
As in decades and centuries past, plant breeding continues to be an important tool. With both older and newer breeding technologies, researchers are able to develop crops that are more tolerant of pests, drought, heat, excess moisture, frost, and more – and the rate of development is increasing as new breeding techniques are discovered.
Technology can also help farmers cope with the changing climate. Large outdoor fans can be installed in orchards to keep the air circulating during times of possible
frost. Frost damage affects the number and quality of fruit a tree will produce - or there will be no fruit at all if frost hits at blossom time. Other farmers have been known to hire helicopters to  y over their orchards on nights when there is a risk of frost. This method protects fruit by keeping warmer air circulating.
Fruit growers can use an online automated weather alert system for better management around climate-induced damage to their orchards, and crops like peaches, nectarines, cherries, apricots, and plums. A cold hardiness app provides information about the survivability
of buds, and lets growers know the temperature thresholds at which they could lose 10 per cent, 50 per cent, or even 90 per cent of their fruit tree buds.
Field tile and ditches drain excess water from a corn  eld.
Courtesy of Ontario Apple Growers
An orchard “wind machine”.
Satellites running farm equipment
Clayton Henderson
An in-tractor GPS
Many Canadian farmers rely on precision agriculture technology to manage  eld work such as planting, nutrient and crop protection application, and harvesting. Satellite-controlled Global Positioning Systems (GPS) on tractors and equipment help to ensure that fertilizers and sprays are applied in the right amounts to the right places, and that crops are planted
in straight, even rows. This methodology reduces fuel consumption, and helps farmers ensure more ef cient use of nutrients, seeds and crop protection products.
A prescription for fertilizer
Farmers also use technology to create precise soil maps of their  elds – one single  eld may have more than one type of soil – and to track which areas of their  elds produce more or less of a given crop. They can then use that information to create what are called “yield maps”
so that they know where the soil is most productive. The technology in today’s farm equipment lets them apply fertilizer at different rates, or only where the map (or “prescription”) tells them that the soil needs it most.
Raising livestock is becoming more automated, too. Farmers use technology to automate feeding, and special ear tags record how many times and how much feed an animal has eaten. In this way, farmers know right away if an animal isn’t feeling well. Technology also controls temperature and humidity inside barns to make sure livestock stay comfortable.
The Real Dirt on Farming 45
Quick Fact
More and more farmers are starting to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs – commonly called drones)
to help with jobs on the farm, such as identifying insect problems, or tracking down livestock that have wandered off. A drone’s infrared sensors and cameras let farmers collect information that they can use to diagnose nutritional disorders in plants or detect diseases and pests.

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