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Precision agriculture considerations

Thinking about getting into precision agriculture? Many farmers
have adopted technologies like variable-rate technology, guidance
systems, and automatic section control.

Here are some benefits, according to Shannon Norwood,
an Ag Management Solutions Consultant for Tri-Green Equipment, a John Deere
dealership with locations in Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi. Norwood spoke
at the InfoAg 2011 Conference in Springfield, Illinois, earlier this month. Precision
agriculture can enable you to:

·     
Operate
longer hours.
This is particularly beneficial when weather
threatens field operations. “In fall, it’s enabled (southern) farmers to get
the corn out before hurricanes come through,” she says.

·     
Reduce
physical fatigue
. “Several growers have commented to me it
makes a huge difference when planting or combining,” she says.

·     
Watch
implement performance closer.
“When planting, you can
really focus on what the planter is doing,” she says. “It gives you the opportunity at harvest
to watch the combine head closer.”

·     
Increase
overall efficiency
. “If you aren’t overlapping, it reduces the
time you are in the field,” she says. This can free up time for other work or
recreation.

·     
Boost
environmental benefits.
“Features like section control on sprayers
lessens the amount of chemical being applied,” she says.

·      Cut costs. In 2009, Auburn University
scientists calculated that the approximate 60% of Alabama
row-crop famers using precision ag technologies or site-specific management
strategies saved an estimated $10 million across a collective 670,000-plus
acres. This was largely due to reducing overlap while applying fertilizer and
pesticides.

Considerations

There
are challenges to adopting precision agriculture, though. Questions to ask
include:

·     

Can your equipment operators
use it?

·     
If they can use it, will
they?
“You
have to distinguish between ‘will they do it’ vs. ‘can they do it,’” says
Norwood.

·     
Can you devote time to the learning
curve?
“I
always encourage growers not to be intimidated by it,” she says.

·     
Will the company give you
both service and support?
“As an Extension agent, I would get calls from farmers who bought
something at a farm show, and had no local support for that product,” she says.
“The more advanced a product is, the more you will have to think about who will
provide service for that product.”

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