ISPA Account

Precision Agriculture in Israel

Israel has a history of high tech agriculture innovation. Drip irrigation was invented in Israel in the 1970s. It is a hot spot for ag tech start-ups and PA research. But overall adoption of PA technology, except for soil moisture sensors for irrigation management, seems similar to that of Europe. Global Satellite System Navigation (GNSS) guidance is popular and a standard feature on newer & larger equipment. A few farmers are trying out variable rate input application. Use of plant and soil sensing, except soil moisture sensors, is rare. This note highlights some information gathered from researchers and extension staff in Israel with the help of ISPA member David Bonfil, of the Agricultural Research Organization (ARO), Gilat Research Center, Israel. To put the information below in context it is useful to know that Israel has about 200,000 ha of field and annual vegetable crops of which about 50% is wheat, and about 100,000 ha of orchards and vineyards. The current PA situation is:
  • Overall, about 30% of farmers use GNSS autosteer and 10% use lightbars, but 75%-85% of large combines, tractors and sprayers use the technology.
  • About 10% of existing sprayers and most new sprayers use GNSS boom control
  • Yield mapping is used for grains, grapes and olives. About 95% of grain, grape and olive harvesters are equipped with yield monitors and 60% of farmers do yield mapping. There is one combine with a grain protein sensor.
  • About 50% of farmers use satellite images. Drone imagery is used on about 30 farms. .
  • About half of arable land in Israel can be irrigated and because water is scarce about 50% of farmers use soil moisture sensors to manage irrigation. Few farmers use other types of soil or plant sensors. There is only one commercial electro-conductivity mapping machine in the country.
  • Most farmers do whole field soil sampling if they do any soil sampling at all. Perhaps 2% of farmers do soil sampling by management zone and grid sampling is almost unknown.
  • Variable rate application of nitrogen fertilizer is used by about 5% of farmers. A few farmers use site-specific weed management and precision guided cultivation.
  • Dairy automation including robots for milking and feeding is used on about 50% of dairy farms.
Note: I have been seeking information on precision agriculture (PA) adoption worldwide. Ideally, this comes in the form of published statistics for the farm sector collected with standard random sample procedures by a credible public organization. For PA that kind of information is rare. Data collected in other ways (e.g. surveys focused on specialized groups of farmers, interviews at farm shows, volunteers responding to an internet link) is useful with the representativeness taken into account. Industry reports, expert opinion from researchers, academics and extension staff, and other information can be useful. It is my opinion that some data is better than guessing, as long as we understand the source and nature of the data. Please send comments on the information from Israel above and data on PA in your country to me at president-elect@ispag.org.
James Lowenberg-DeBoer, ISPA President Elect
Harper Adams University
Newport, Shropshire, UK