Although not new, yield monitors remain one of the most common data layers to define management zones.
As you log hours in the combine, grain cart tractor or semi this fall, your thoughts are likely to jump ahead to next year. Is there anything you can do differently than the past year?
“The answer to the question is simple,” says precision ag consultant Steve Cubbage. “You start by better allocating resources on an acre by acre basis. This type of thinking is the foundation of precision agriculture.”
Sometimes that thinking stops when revenue is tight. For many farmers, Cubbage says the first knee-jerk reaction is to eliminate so-called “frills” such as technology.
If there’s one factor that can positively move the profitability needle, it’s probably precision ag technology, he adds. According to a Farms.com study, even a 1,000-acre crop farm can see an increase in revenue of $20,000 to $70,000 per year by adopting current technology. “Keep in mind, that is revenue, not profit,” Cubbage says. “Profit comes from effectively acting on knowledge gained from precision data that you collect.”
The reality is most precision technology used on farms isn’t producing quality foundational data. “Your goal for 2018 should be to get your ‘precision house’ in order,” Cubbage says. “That requires making a financial and mental commitment to precision.”
To help prioritize investment, Cubbage and Scott Shearer, professor and chair, Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Ohio State University, suggest the following technologies that most commonly make money for farmers:
- Yield monitors. Although not new, yield monitors remain one of the most common data layers to define management zones. Start with a yield monitor on a combine, Cubbage advises, because the scale and location of variability is key for precision.
- Autoguidance and GPS. Again, autosteer and GPS aren’t new, but they continue to return value by reducing overlap of inputs and making practices such as banding fertilizer and strip-till possible. Autoguidance is the core technology for everything beyond the hitch pin.
- Automatic section control. Coupled with autosteer and GPS, automatic section control on planters and sprayers helps reduce and eliminate overlap and provides immediate savings on input costs. For example, individual row clutches on a planter can save 5% to 15% on seed costs, Cubbage says.
- Variable-rate technology. Farmers have been dabbling with variable-rate technology for years, but it hasn’t moved beyond that, Cubbage says. Fields with significant differences will reap the biggest benefits from varying seed and fertilizer rates, Shearer adds.
- Mobile apps. From monitoring the weather to checking markets to managing stored grain and irrigation pivots, Cubbage says mobile technology and apps are impacting a farmer’s decision-making as much as anything.
- Data. Many farmers are skeptical about storing data in the cloud and sharing it or unsure how to navigate it all. Cubbage encourages farmers to embrace the value of data and turn it into more efficient field operations.