Frank Ewert is Scientific Director of the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) and full Professor of Crop Science at the University of Bonn. His research focuses on the analysis and multi-scale modelling of crops, cropping systems and agro-ecosystems and the integrated assessment of impacts of climate change on crop production, agricultural land use and food security. His work contributes to the development of sustainable plant production systems with improved resilience, ecosystem services and biodiversity.
Frank Ewert has significantly contributed to these research areas with numerous highly cited publications and is member of several editorial and scientific advisory boards. He is chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the European Joint Programming Initiative on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (JPI-FACCE) and has recently been nominated for the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors to the European Commission. He has been leading researcher in a large number of high-profile international and national research projects and programs over the last 20 years.
Digital technologies for sustainable crop production: progress and challenges
Substantial progress has been made in research and development of new digital technologies and their use in crop production. Much potential is seen in mobile and remote sensing, field robotics, artificial intelligence and simulation modelling to support breeding of improved crops and the sustainable management of cropping and farm systems to better address the increasing challenges faced by agriculture in light of the Sustainable Development Goals. However, despite the great enthusiasm about the new digital technologies to generate disruptive changes in agricultural practices and some good progress achieved in developing and applying these technologies there are a number of challenges that require attention to meet expectations.
The paper reviews recent progress in research and application of digital technologies for sustainable crop production. Particular emphasis is given to the demand for and recent efforts of integrating developments of single technologies into comprehensive solutions and the underlying research approaches. Research examples refer to collaborative research projects such as PhenoRob (Robotics and Phenotyping for Sustainable Crop Production) and DAKIS (Digital Knowledge and Information System for Agriculture), which are contrasted with the demand for practical solutions to support sustainable crop production at field, farm and landscape scale. Particular reference is made to improved nutrient management, reduced pesticide use and increased biodiversity.
The aspects of diversity and scale of solutions, design and transfer of integrated technologies and the transformation of systems are identified as important challenges. Conclusions for future development of digital technologies for sustainable crop production and the required underlying research are derived.