What is in this article?:
- Technology embedded with science and information intensive.
- Must be able to handle, analyze and interpret data to understand what is going on in the field.
- Agriculture service providers making use of GPS navigation technologies.
- Profitability influenced by how data is used.
Farmers always testing
That goes back to your point about farmers giving you calls. They’re naturally curious anyway.
“True. And farmers are testing things every year — they do that just by the nature of farming. Sometimes those tests are an accident. A yield monitor allows us to measure those things.
“Back to profitability: if a farmer takes the collected yield monitor data and makes a better decision about what products to apply or what rate of seed to use on a specific soil, that provides a quantifiable, profitability answer.”
Are you seeing an uptick in adoption of automatic steering? How is it being used in the state?
“When I began doing analyses in the Midwest, it became obvious that automatic steering was easily profitable. However, there’s a lot less tillage work in that region compared to the Mid-South.
“In Arkansas, especially with rice farming, producers cover the ground many times with tillage equipment. Anytime we can reduce overlap with tillage equipment, it increases its value.
“For instance, if you have a 42-foot field cultivator, the standard assumption is that it overlaps 10 percent. That’s about 4 feet. If we can reduce the overlap to, say, 6 inches by using GPS guidance, that’s a big deal. The grower can cover more acres in a day and be more efficient.
“Some farmers who were working as many acres as they possibly could, added GPS guidance and can now take on additional fields because they’re so much more efficient.”
On quality of life…
“One thing that’s very interesting is farmers’ quality of life. Back in the 1970s, we saw more and more tractors with cabs. After a farmer got used to a cab, he didn’t want to give it up: less fatigue, less exposure to the elements and less grumpiness.
“GPS guidance is the same way — it can make things easier. Even if there isn’t an economic value, most farmers using it seem happier. At least that’s what they tell me. And their spouses and children are happier, too.”
One of the major issues with precision agriculture — and it may continue to be for a long time — is the integration of all these different technologies. Is that getting better?
“That’s a big deal. It’s been said that some of the technology manufacturers don’t play well together.
“The technology hasn’t been standardized yet. We’re having a lot of issues with getting different kinds of equipment to communicate.
“But it is getting better. There is a thrust from certain industry groups saying, ‘Let’s go ahead and standardize and we’ll all be better off.’”