Precision Potato Farming Aims at Sustainability

Kurt LawtonConservation, Equipment, Farmers, Fertilizer, GPS, Guidance, Irrigation, Resources, Satellite, Spraying, sustainability, Variable rate

Precision agriculture is playing a much larger role in helping potato growers become more sustainable, according to a recent story in Spudman.

Bruce Crapo, a grower of 6,000 acres of commercial potatoes and 2,000 acres of seed potatoes in Idaho, is a good example of how the average potato farmer looks at precision agriculture – he uses technology to reduce costs, increase output and improve profits.

Crapo isn’t thrilled at the cost of high-tech equipment such as GPS-guided tractors, but he knows it’s saving him money and there’s no way he can turn back now.

“There is a substantial initial cost involved,” Crapo said. “But I also know it is saving me money. What do you do? Go back to what you were doing before? That’s not an option.”

Crapo, who uses Global Positioning System (GPS) technology on all his planters and harvesters, said the latest precision ag technology has taken farming to a different level.

“It’s light years ahead of what it was when we were doing it by hand,” he said. “We’re not going to go back to not using it, but we are wincing a little at the cost.”

Precision agriculture can loosely be defined as using new technologies such as GPS, sensors, variable rate application equipment and aerial or satellite images to make farming easier and more profitable.

Simply put, precision agriculture can help farmers improve their margins by decreasing their operating costs.

Idaho farmer Robert Blair, owner of PineCreek Precision, says the biggest benefit of precision farming is that it gives producers the ability to manage their farm on a production zone basis rather than a whole field basis. This shift, he said, allows farmers to save time and money and helps them offset the rising cost of chemicals, nutrients, fuel and fertilizer.

Blair uses a wide array of precision agriculture techniques on his 1,500-acre farm and said the technology is saving him tens of thousands of dollars every year.

Read on to learn more…