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Caique Carvalho Medauar

Envu Global Technology Expert


Precision forestry: challenges and opportunities

In recent years, the significant increase in demand for products from forestry segments has required the adoption of new management practices, with the aim of boosting productivity. In forestry, adequate planning combined with operational procedures are the first steps to achieving success. It is in this scenario that the concept of Precision Forestry is inserted, which represents a new way of managing forests.

In agriculture, the use of the terminology “precision” with embedded technologies and applied operationally for various activities is already a reality. For forestry, however, this diffusion is still evolving, with exponential growth and high potential for expansion. It is in this process that Precision Forestry is the accelerator, bringing data and information (generally digital) much more quickly and assertively to anticipate decision-making.

The concept of Precision Forestry is very broad and varies according to different areas of activity, such as:
a) for the geneticist, Precision Forestry can mean the combination between the genetics of a plant species and the location in which it will be cultivated, in such a way as to maximize its growth;
b) for the forestry team, Precision Silviculture can help with more precise fertilizer correction, applying inputs in a localized manner and reducing competition with weeds, in addition to other actions aimed at minimizing operational costs, increasing productivity;
c) for the environment and sustainability team, Precision Forestry can mean a major advance in aiding the precision management of forests that are influenced by climate variation, aiming to estimate carbon emissions caused by deforestation and fires and consequently mitigate them more effectively and quickly.

In general terms, Precision Forestry, despite having very broad definitions, consists of a model, based on prior knowledge that involves the spatial and temporal variability of production factors, whether related to soil, plants, the environment or another factor that can be mapped and whose variation can be mathematically described.

Allied to this, Precision Forestry modifies the focus given to forestry until then, because, while in conventional management the approach to activities takes place in a uniform manner, in Precision Forestry this same area is treated geographically point by point. One of the examples of this paradigm shift in the understanding of forestry is the possibility of expanding the field of vision in the processes, involving greater control of all operational processes involved, which, ultimately, culminates in a better use of natural resources, inputs, equipment and, effectively, invested capital.

Scenarios and Applications:
The use of computational tools associated with climate variables, environmental variables, among others, is a challenge for the forestry sector that aims to automate its analyzes in the face of extreme scenarios and many uncertainties. In this regard, the processing and interpretation of a large set of data for large areas is one of the pillars for seeking excellence in operational activities.

The rapid expansion of the area cultivated with eucalyptus, with its high number of varieties and its great adaptability to the most varied soil and climate conditions, led to the need for studies that could generate broad information in space and time, reducing the risk of uncertainty about some natural phenomena that occur constantly in the forest cycle. Eucalyptus forests tend to be established in places with high atmospheric demand, different growing conditions and sparse and irregular rainfall in some periods of the year, which put at risk the main success factors of Precision Forestry, called 9S, namely: a) topography; b) climate; c) genetics; d) plant health; e) weeds; f) forest nutrition; g) planting; h) soil preparation, and i) soil fertility;

Within the silvicultural management process, the 9S are the factors that require detailed attention on a daily basis, as it is from this prior knowledge that specific solutions emerge, which are a key characteristic of Precision Forestry. In this context, the various applications of Precision Forestry are implemented, as follows: Data sciences versus forest meteorology: there are currently numerous online repositories with historical climate databases from around the world, which has allowed us to deepen analyses, create visualizations, scale processes and automate routines regarding the distribution and probability of annual rain, climate anomalies, the probability of drought events, modeling the effects of the El Ninõ system. These assessments raise the level of share management.

Remote sensing versus weed monitoring: development of a decision support system to indicate priority areas for intervention in the field, based on high-frequency remote monitoring, for detection, mapping and warning of weeds in the field. Systems like this already exist and offer reliable diagnoses, compatible with the speed and scale with which these problems manifest themselves. The workflow for expert systems like this involves four main steps: 1) Monitoring and diagnosis; 2) Preparation of maps; 3) Temporal analysis, and 4) Alert generation.

Artificial intelligence versus risk zoning for the occurrence of pests: zoning in general is an important tool for delimiting areas with potential for possible incidences of pests, which may be associated with climatic, hydrological indicators and intrinsic and extrinsic characteristics of plants. In this context, tools to integrate expert systems such as: spatial analysis, geographic information systems, fuzzy logic, among others, are important for this type of more in-depth investigation, and can assist in recommending management that aims to reduce the impacts of the incidence of Prague.

A few decades ago, we did not imagine that we could envision a forestry that was different from the conventional one, full of technological innovations such as: aerial spraying via drones, machine learning, pattern recognition, data mining, digital platforms, among others. However, this evolution (although slow) is associated with three fundamental pillars:
a) creativity;
b) diversification, and
c) innovation.

A broad and targeted vision requires a complex approach, knowledge and training, advance planning and investing in solutions. Along this path, it is important to emphasize that Precision Forestry is a positive evolution for the forestry sector, with automated, more efficient management tactics, allowing decision-making to be more assertive.