Geographic Information System - Frequently Asked Questions

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 What is GIS?
Geographical Information System is computer software that is capable of storing, analyzing, and displaying geographically referenced information (data identified according to location). GIS is able to relate different information in a spatial content and allow us to reach a conclusion about this relationship. GIS produces maps that are used all over the world in every field imaginable. Foresters, engineers, agricultural producers, and police are just some of the people that use GIS. Maps such as the 2009 Bertha Armyworm Map are products of GIS.

How does GIS work?
All data collected uses a location reference system. Examples of location reference are longitude and latitude, or legal land locations. Data collected at a particular location can be compared with other information, and through these relationships, conclusions can be made to explain and predict future occurrences. GIS allows the decision maker to visualize and understand the relationships of information inputted to make better management decisions.

What forms of data does GIS use?
A GIS makes it possible to link, or integrate, information that is difficult to associate through other means. GIS can be used to combine aerial photographs, tabular data, digital satellite data or numerous other forms of data to display a spatial representation of all this information. If a map forecasts insect populations across the province, by using map overlays one can get an idea of the water bodies, streams and rivers, and soils that coincide with various populations that have been mapped.

How can I use GIS in my agricultural operation?
Precision Farming uses Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to tailor soil and crop management decisions to match conditions at every location in the field. GPS can be used to prevent overlaps of spraying and seeding, and determine appropriate applications of fertilizer depending on history of specific locations in fields. In Precision Farming, data is collected in the form of GPS digital satellite images and then GIS is used for managing the information and producing maps. By using Precision Farming one can reduce the costs of production. One can use maps such as the insect forecast maps created by AAFRD to make better management decisions. Production of various maps such as the snow and precipitation data and insect forecast maps are produced at appropriate times of the year through AAFRD. Use of these maps can maximize yields, reduce input costs and decrease pesticide use, creating a greater net return.

Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.
GIS Development
Canadian Government Links of GIS

Prepared by Kim Zeleny, Ag-Info Centre, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development
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This information published to the web on November 20, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on March 10, 2015.