The AIRSPACES project (Aerial Imaging and Remote Sensing for Precision Agriculture and Environmental Stewardship) aims to develop cost effective remote sensing capabilities that will not only improve UMES farming practices and support the ECPA project (Environmentally Conscious Precision Agriculture), but will also provide services to local farmers as they adopt this technologically-intensive farming practice.
Environmental concerns and agricultural needs are two of the most relevant issues for the Delmarva Peninsula. The rural environment of the region and the proximity of the Chesapeake Bay give special significance to projects such as AIRSPACES and ECPA. Traditional farming practices involve uniform application of fertilizers, seeds, and pesticides across the field, without regard to variations in soil type, weed population, and nutrient status. This results in over- and under-application of valuable chemicals in certain areas resulting in sub-optimal yield and profitability. Moreover, chemicals and nutrients excessively applied in parts of the field get dissolved in rainwater and may affect the health of the watershed.
Precision farming utilizes a variety of engineering technologies such as: GPS receivers, GIS databases, grid soil sampling, grid mapping, and variable rate application. Variable rate technology can be utilized in the application of seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides. Precision agriculture also utilizes yield monitors and remote sensing imagery to determine soil fertility and weed populations for efficient, environmentally-friendly farm management.