Growers can get a whole new perspective on the land they farm with technologies to be introduced at the University of California Kearney Research and Extension Center's Geospatial Technologies in Agriculture Symposium, March 16-18, at the Bakersfield Holiday Inn Select.

Geospatial technologies encompass global positioning systems (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing. In agriculture, the technologies allow growers to more accurately manage their fields according to water needs, weed and pest pressure, soil chemistry and other factors. These new technologies can help save time, lower costs, improve yields and reduce unwanted environmental impacts.

“Geospatial technologies have been around for several decades, but in the last several years GIS, GPS and remote sensing have been increasingly applied to the agriculture industry,” said Kris Lynn-Patterson, the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources academic coordinator for GIS and the symposium coordinator. “This is the one event each year that keeps people informed on university, agency and growers' efforts and could help the agricultural community adopt these technologies more effectively through collaboration, data sharing and education.

Concurrent sessions

The symposium offers concurrent sessions for participants who have varying degrees of familiarity with geospatial technologies and varying interests in the technologies' applications. Sessions will include:

  • Precision agriculture in California.
  • Site specific agricultural research at the University of California.
  • GIS basics for agriculture.
  • Regional mapping in California.
  • GIS techniques in research.
  • GIS education in ag programs.
  • A to Z for practitioners — geospatial products and services for agricultural spatial modeling.

The final day of the symposium, registrants are asked to take part in a round-table discussion on agricultural programs, curriculum development and program structure to benefit students and industry employers.

‘Will take time’

“Like all new technologies, it will take time to discover the best ways to use geospatial technologies and apply them in the field,” Lynn-Patterson said. “In fact, geospatial technologies can be a little overwhelming to first-time adopters. But even if growers aren't ready to personally delve in, it is always good to get the big picture, become aware of new approaches and make informed decisions about the future.”

Symposium registration is $200 until Feb. 15, $250 Feb. 15 to March 15, or $300 March 16-18. Students with a valid student ID may register for $99. To register online or by mail, go to http://www.calgis.org/2005registration.htm for the proper links or the printable registration form. For more information on the conference, contact Lynn-Patterson at krislynn@uckac.edu or (559) 646-6592.

The day before the symposium, organizers will hold a Southern California Old Ridge Route GPS Road Rally. Using a GPS unit and digital camera, participants will attempt to find 10 points of interest along the route and report their progress with a cell phone. Spectators may monitor the participants' progress in real-time on the Web at http://www.ridgeroute.com. For more information on the rally, contact event coordinator Greg Wilkerson at gregg_wilkerson@ca.blm.gov or (661) 391-6081.