Educate The Public On Precision Farming Values

Kurt LawtonConservation, Education, GPS, Precision Ag in the News

Hats off to Adrian, Michigan Daily Telegram for helping the general public grasp how satellite-based GPS systems help farmers. And kudos to Tom Van Wagner, the local district USDA-NRCS conservationist, and to local growers for highlighting results from precision farming.

As Van Wagner was quoted…“Agriculture is big business,” he said. “We sometimes read about agriculture and how (farmers) are polluting and causing all these problems. But farmers are stewards of the soil. They have to be concerned about erosion and water quality.”

Local grower Blain Baker made the same statement that I’ve been saying for years about investing in technology…“Prices (for commodities) were up last year, so we thought it’d be a good time to get some new technology,” he said. Blain also talked about efficiencies with their planter and fertilizer application.

One of the devices he uses is a GPS-based automatic shutoff system that turns the planter on and off depending on where the field has already been planted. Avoiding double-planting saves on seed costs, which is important at the best of times and especially critical given the way the price of corn seed has shot up. “It‘s gone from $100 a bag to $300 a bag in three years,” Baker said. Plus, by making sure there aren’t too many plants in one place, yield is improved.

The Bakers also use an automatic clutch system that uses grid sampling to improve fertilizer application. The field is sampled in 2.5-acre grids, the soil is tested in each grid, and the “prescription” for fertilizer is input into a computer. The rate of application varies according to what’s needed in each location.

“Say on a 40-acre field, you put 6,000 pounds (of fertilizer) on,” Baker said. “But when you grid-sample, you might have put 2,000 pounds on.”

And how did Baker respond when asked about the investment in all these tools of precision agriculture. “We feel pretty comfortable we’re getting our money back. The payback is pretty quick,” he said.

Have you thought about educating the local media at your farm to help them and their consumer readers grasp the value of technology and stewardship on today’s farm?