Precision Agriculture: Invest Today, Save Tomorrow

Satellites, lasers, variable timing technologies. Precision Ag is redefining farm management — and profitability.

It’s not so different from saving for retirement. We all know we should be doing it and that it will pay off in the long run, but getting started is the hard part. Investing in precision agriculture for most growers is a similar proposition. But the prospect of strong savings has encouraged many growers to experiment with precision tools.

A survey by agricultural scientists at Auburn University shows that precision agriculture creates efficiencies in time, labor and inputs.

Real Savings per Acre

Numerous growers in Alabama have experienced a positive return on their investment. A survey by agricultural scientists at Auburn University shows that precision agriculture creates efficiencies in time, labor and inputs. John Fulton, biosystems engineering associate professor at Auburn, reports that row-crop producers in Alabama who have implemented precision agriculture and site-specific management strategies have saved an estimated $10 million on input expenditures—measured over a collective 670,000-plus acres. Fulton estimates potential savings of $2 to $8 an acre with the use of basic precision ag technologies like guidance systems.

More Growers Taking the Plunge

With precision agriculture, producers can use precision guidance, remote-sensing imagery and data analytics software to make better-informed decisions and use inputs more efficiently. This not only saves costs for growers, but also supports sustainability efforts and reduces environmental impacts —an important consideration as more Fortune 100s are looking to develop sustainable supply chains. Precision agriculture is becoming a more widely adopted option for growers across the U.S., who are seeing significant benefits to its implementation.

Degraded Soils

Extreme weather events and severe storms can exacerbate soil degradation. Excessive water and wind erosion remove fertile surface soils, rich in organic matter and plant nutrients. Over time, water lost as runoff eventually reduces the soil's available water capacity. Naturally, this, too, takes a toll on crop growth and yield.

On average, each participating farm in the “2010 Ohio Farming Practices Survey” had adopted between five and six precision agriculture technologies.

According to Marv Batte, an agricultural economist with Ohio State University, between 1999 and 2008 adoption rates among Ohio farmers jumped 27 percent. In Batte’s most recent study, the “2010 Ohio Farming Practices Survey,” he reports the responses of 1,163 producers in Ohio. Results indicate that on average, each farm had adopted between five and six precision agriculture technologies. Most often, this technology was a portable or fixed mounted GPS device (30.2 percent adoption rate), followed by precision guidance (27.4 percent). These were followed by yield monitor technology (25.3 percent) and geo-referenced soil mapping (22.7 percent), a technology that combines agricultural data from a number of sources with grid soil samples to optimize variable application of inputs.

Regarding the value of these precision agriculture tools overall, 91.4 percent of the Ohio producers reported the benefits of the technologies outweighed the costs.

Use the best seeds and crop protection products to get the most from precision technologies. FiberMax cotton seed often outranks the competition in fiber length and strength—making it a top choice for maximizing productivity.

Precision Technologies Work Best with Smarter Inputs

While precision ag technologies can help growers maximize production, those anticipated productivity jumps will only be optimized if a grower’s portfolio of inputs are also optimal. Crop Science offers a range of solutions, from pre-plant through harvest. For example, FiberMax and Stoneville cotton seed varieties come in high-yielding varieties with a number of options for pest-resistance, herbicide-tolerance and water-use efficiency, to name a few. And Bayer crop protection products include leading herbicides that effectively control weeds with known resistance to glyphosate, ALS, PPO and other chemistries. A smart set of inputs can help growers make the most of promising developments in precision ag. Combining these well-engineered inputs with effective agriculture technology is good for growers’ profitability today and sustainable crop production tomorrow.

Discuss the best planting options for your fields with your local Crop Science US representative.

Works Cited

  • Batte, Marvin. “Adoption and Use of Precision Farming Technology in Ohio: Results From the 2010 Ohio Farming Practices Survey.” ohioagmanager.osu.edu. Ohio State University, 7 Oct. 2010. Web. 16 Jun. 2011.
  • Creamer, Jamie. "Alabama Farmers Reap Big Savings with Precision Ag." Wire Eagle. Auburn University, 21 Feb. 2011. Web. 17 June 2011.
  • Ellis, Sean. “Precision Agriculture.” Spudman. Great American Publishing, February 2011. Web. 16 June 2011.
  • Winstead, Amy T., and Shannon H. Norwood. “Adoption and Use of Precision Agriculture Technologies by Practitioners.” aces.edu. Alabama Cooperative Extension System, n.d. Web. 16 Jun. 2011.

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