Anything coming in the next couple of years that farmers need to know about?

“In 2011, there will be a new capability that will help with on-farm experiments.

“One of the leading barriers to precision ag adoption is that we don’t have third-party experts readily available to handle and analyze data. Until that’s in place, many farmers won’t have the incentive to get yield monitors and other technology.

“But, there’s a group perfecting an automated spatial analysis system, which will be commercialized this winter. So, in 2011, farmers will have the opportunity to have their data uploaded into this new system, where it will be automatically analyzed.

“Results will be back to farmers in a much shorter time — perhaps hours. Currently, it takes me several days to handle and analyze data and I can only do a few data sets. This new system can do thousands of data sets at the same time. That’s a huge deal.

“People also ask about the possibility of robotic tractors. I doubt that ever happens, simply from a liability perspective. I don’t think there will be unmanned equipment running around the fields.

“True, there are some prototypes out now. Several universities have demonstrations of this. But I just don’t think that will happen.”

Top questions you get from farmers?

“They ask is there an example where GPS guidance is profitable for small farms?

“One of the leading examples is with older farmers who are close to retirement. By using these new technologies, they can continue to operate, even with neck and shoulder pains. Even on smaller farms that’s true. That’s a big deal for those affected.

On RTK guidance…

“A hot topic is RTK (real time kinematics) guidance. The accuracy with the systems is great — down to inches.

“To many, that seems extravagant and unnecessary. It is more expensive. But there are a lot of cases where the technology can pay for itself in contrast to lower grades of accuracy — especially if we’re applying inputs appropriately and site-specifically, reducing overlap.

“It’s very important where we’re putting out an input and needing to come back six months later to the same tracks. Lower levels of GPS may be able to get you close, but not accurate to the position that is often needed. RTK has great benefits there.

“Farmers also ask about yield monitors. We’ve been saying for 15 years, ‘If you’re going to use one, it’s important to calibrate the monitor and operate the combine/picker in a way that’s consistent with what the manufacturer recommends.’ You must operate the machine consistently — no unnecessary quick speed-ups or slowdowns.”