Research: PrecisionAg Adopters Gaining A Speedy Return on Investment

Higher crop input costs are accelerating the payback for precision agriculture technology and per acre savings on crop inputs have risen, according to recent research conducted by dmrkynetec, formerly Doane Marketing Research, in partnership with the PrecisionAg Institute.

“Research shows that growers are gaining back their investment in precision agriculture technology faster than we thought — often in just one to three years,” says K. Elliott Nowels, director of the PrecisionAg Institute. “And they are saving from $15 to $39 per acre by using inputs more efficiently with precision agriculture tools, depending on crop and region of the country.”

Add in the stewardship element of precision agriculture — using inputs when and where they are needed — and it’s a very compelling case for adoption. “There’s never been a better time to adopt this technology,” says Nowels.

Additional results indicate the following:

  • Eighty-five percent (85%) of corn growers, 88 percent of cotton growers and 100 percent of soybean growers indicated their operation has been more profitable using precision agriculture technology.
  • The average input savings per acre for these precision agriculture users (inputs including seed, fertilizer, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and time/labor) $19 per acre for corn, $18.50/A. for beans and up to $39/A. for cotton.
  • Fertilizer cost-savings led the way, coming in at $4 to $13 per acre depending on crop.
  • The top benefits growers listed from their use of precision agriculture technology were 1.) the ability to apply chemicals and fertilizer where needed, 2.) greater profitability due to lower input costs, and 3.) identification of poor producing areas of their fields.

The research was compiled earlier this year from in-depth written responses and telephone follow-up interviews with corn, soybean and cotton growers. A pre-selection survey was used to find growers who’ve used multiple tools — GPS, controller-driven application and yield monitors — for at least three years. Nearly half of the 66 growers interviewed had been using some precision agriculture technology for at least six years. In order to get the most comprehensive information, growers agreeing to the study were asked to answer written questions, as well as participate in an in-depth phone interview.

“Measuring the return on investment (ROI) for individual components of precision is difficult because the tools are part of an overall crop management system,” says Nowels. “This gives us deeper insight on the ROI from those with deeper experience with it. We wanted to find out what new adopters might expect from using this technology long-term.” This contrasts, Nowels says, with earlier research conducted by the Institute of hundreds of adopters and non-adopters to gain a broader view.

“We can marry the hard and fast figures we are getting in this research with some of the practices that are being adopted out there and it really helps the whole thing make sense to growers,” says Paul Schrimpf, group editor of PrecisionAg.com, PrecisionAg Special Reports and the PrecisionAg Buyer’s Guide. “We’re currently at work to incorporate this data into a special insert inside our next edition of the Buyer’s Guide coming out next month.”

“Certainly results from adopting this technology will vary from crop to crop and farm to farm,” says Schrimpf, “but higher input costs have made growers hungry for ideas on cutting costs while growing yields. I think this research will help them see some new possibilities.”

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