Variable Rate Precision Farming — The Next Big Thing

Kurt Lawton

My friend and former colleague, Farm Industry News senior editor Jodie Wehrspann, pegs variable-rate (VR) technology as the biggest overlooked story in precision agriculture in a recent piece she wrote. I couldn’t agree with her more. I’ve written many stories of progressive farmers who have been using this VR technology for years, and are making it pay, while learning its pros and cons. Every farmer should have a plan to adopt pieces of this technology.

Jodie writes, This current decade, which was ushered in by vehicle guidance, will be ushered out by variable-rate technology. Expect to see more information about sensors and actuators that make it possible to truly farm by the foot, tailor-applying each input according to the needs of each area of your fields. No longer are we talking about whether variable-rate technology pays, but what equipment growers need for variable-rate application and how it works.

The disheartening fact, to me, that she points out is that their latest reader survey shows that 31% of respondents have not used any precision farming equipment. And another 31% have only investigated or experimented with precision farming practices. Wow. That is flat out sad that growers and their bankers cannot see the potential savings and ROI of this equipment. Where was the investment, especially after the hugely profitable years on the farm during 2007 and 2008?

Perhaps it’s the age of farmers not wanting to invest in new technology during the twilight of their careers, or perhaps it’s fear. Or lack of knowledge. Or a lack of acres to make it pay. Or all of the above. And perhaps more rapid adoption will simply take a generational change.

Granted, the 37% of the survey who have incorporated one or more precision farming practices are reaping the rewards, and would never go back to their old practices. I’m sure this is the group that will be producing 80% or more of our food into the future. And VR technology will help them achieve efficiency and growth.

And if you’re looking for tips on how to grow your technology, check out the piece I posted last Friday.

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