GIS in Agriculture: Introduction

Farming is more sophisticated now-days 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, while 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.

Three Strategic Uses for GIS in Agriculture

Strategic Use #1: Strategic Planning

GIS is incredibly versatile. It can be customized with any number of map layers, each representing a particular set of data. For example, depending on the size of their farm and presence of factors that are important to the type of farm, a farmer might view and analyse GIS maps of soil properties, average rainfall, elevation, and more all in one map. Using these detailed maps, they can plan the most efficient and cost-effective way to use their land.

Strategic Use #2: Water Management

Another important use for GIS in agriculture is water management. Using GIS, the farmer can determine where rain water is draining too quickly or too slowly so that either engineering steps can be taken to reroute its flow, or chemicals can be applied to improve the internal drainage of the soil. In areas where the water flows too quickly it can result in crop loss and soil erosion. In areas where water flows too slowly it could hamper crop growth.

Strategic Use #3: Crop Suitability Mapping

Soil characteristic maps can me enormously important for crop planning. A map of soil themes such as salinity, internal drainage, pH and various aspect of soil chemistry that are important to the intended crop, can provide an important information backdrop for understanding whether or not a crop will grow successfully in an area.

GIS farm mappingFigure 2: GIS Farm Mapping

Precision Farming Use for GIS in Agriculture

Using GIS, a farmer can plan their crops down to the very last detail. GIS software can be used to gather and coordinate important data like soil composition. For example, if a farmer knows what nutrients are already in the soil and where they are deficient, they can avoid the unnecessary application of expensive fertilizer and trace elements by applying them only where they are required and in the appropriate quantities.

GIS in agricultureFigure 1: GIS in Agriculture: Map layers such as soil chemistry, soil type and topography (and derived maps such as soil drainage), previous yields, etc, can provide important information for field management


In this article I’ve talked about two important uses for GIS in agriculture – strategic farm planning and precision agriculture.

If you would like to learn how to use the free, open source, Quantum GIS (QGIS), have a look at one of my Beginners GIS courses on Udemy…

GIS Tutorial for Beginners #1: QGIS Orientation

GIS for Beginners #2: Learn Map Digitization using QGIS

GIS for Beginners #3: Spatial Analysis using QGIS




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