Precision Boom Control Saves 5 to 30% Input Costs

Kurt LawtonGeneral

Yes, investment spending isn’t easy. The “pay now save later” approach was easier to swallow in 2007 than right now, but even stubborn bankers and lenders should be able to grasp saving money every year on expensive inputs!

Auburn University biosystems engineer John Fulton says their preliminary research on GPS-based spray boom control technology shows a savings of between 5 and 30% depending on the size and shape of the field.

“Especially in odd-shaped fields, you’re going to see a bigger saving because there is typically more overlap associated with spraying,” says Amy Winstead, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System precision farming agent, who adds that a lot of growers who have already adopted the technology have expressed satisfaction with it.

Winstead says she already has noted substantial savings among farmers who have adopted the technology.

“There’s been a huge saving,” she says, “and farmers, depending on the application, can pay off the system after only one or two growing seasons.”

Boom-control features are easy to acquire as add-ons, according to Shannon Norwood, a precision farming agent who, along with Winstead, is based at the Tennessee Valley Research and Extension Center in Belle Mina.

“There are a number of boom-control products for growers to choose from,” Norwood says. “They can order new sprayers equipped with the technology, or they can purchase a third-party product.”

With the right product selection, retrofitting of older sprayers is also possible, she says, adding that adoption rates are likely to climb as growers replace older sprayers in the next few years.

John Deere offers one such technology, Swath Control Pro, which we’ve covered in a variety of stories here at 

Variable-rate fertilizer applications of P & K are also a viable profit-making option, when soil tests lead the way. “With fertilizer costs running higher, variable-rate applications of phosphorous and potassium are now a viable option,” she says, adding that soil testing is a critical first step.

“Your soil test really should be the first step in making sure nutrient rates are at their proper levels,” Norwood says, “otherwise, you won’t know if the variable rate applications are justified.”

In fact, in especially lean crop years, soil testing should be viewed as an especially valuable economic tool.

For additional cost savings, Winstead says farmers also should consider the merits of guidance systems.

Lower-end products can be purchased for as little as $2,000 to $3,000, she says.

“They’re more affordable than they used to be and can go a long way in reducing overlap in the fields and saving on fuel costs,” she says.

Guidance systems enable producers to work longer days and may also help them better manage other resources, especially labor costs.