Ohio State University: Now’s The Time For Precision

With the costs of crop production inputs rising and precision agriculture systems getting cheaper, equipment such as RTK (real-time kinematic) auto-steering, yield monitors and variable rate applicators may add economical value to the farm in the form of higher input savings and a greater net return.

“The primary purpose of precision agriculture technology is to improve production efficiency, boost savings with seed and fertilizer applications, and cut costs associated with labor, fuel and equipment wear and tear,” said Randall Reeder, an Ohio State University Extension agricultural engineer. “In the past, it may not have always been economically feasible for farmers with medium-size operations to adopt precision agriculture, but with today’s rising costs, there may now be a place on the farm for the technology.”

Reeder said that the various components of a precision agriculture system each contribute to a savings for the farmer.

“Even farmers with small farms can benefit from technology provided by ag suppliers, such as variable rate fertilizer application,” said Reeder, who also holds an Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center appointment.

With an RTK auto steer system, for example, part of the savings comes from the elimination of overlaps and skips, due to the 1-inch driving accuracy.

“Really how much you save depends on how sloppy you were before switching to an RTK auto-steer system,” said Reeder. “With a row marker system, conservatively speaking, growers might be farming 102 acres in a 100-acre field because of the overlaps. This translates into spending two percent more in all materials, from seed to fertilizer to herbicides to labor. But with an RTK system, you eliminate guess row errors and overlaps.”

Reeder refers to an RTK auto-steer as the “Cadillac” of precision agriculture equipment because of its higher cost relative to light bars and other less precise guidance systems. However, growers find additional uses for the technology that help justify the costs.

“I’ve never heard anyone who owned RTK auto-steering say he or she would want to give it up. It’s like having power steering on a pick-up truck. Once you get used to it, you can’t imagine not having it,” said Reeder. “Farmers are always finding ways they can benefit from the technology.”

For example, an RTK auto-steer system gives farmers the ability to add automatic on and off switches to planter units, drill sections or spray boom sections.

“That results in a direct savings. An area already planted won’t be replanted, an area already sprayed won’t be sprayed again,” said Reeder.

Yield monitors are beneficial because they can give a value to yield variations in a field that farmers otherwise could only estimate visually.

“Without yield monitors, farmers may not realize just how low their yield is in certain areas of a field, and that’s costing them profits,” said Reeder. “Variations in a field, from slope to soil type to drainage, can have an impact on crop production. Farmers are even discovering that their input costs on crops planted along wooded areas or tree lines are higher than the yields they are getting because of competition for nutrients and water. Precision agriculture is providing farmers with a better understanding of the dynamics between the environment and the crops.”

Even before guidance systems were developed, farmers were discovering the benefits of precision agriculture technology through variable rate application of fertilizer nutrients. A recent OSU Extension study found a savings in fertilizer costs when using the technology compared to going without it.

John Barker, OSU Extension educator in Knox County, conducted the study on a 45-acre central Ohio farm using variable rate technology to manage fertilizer applications of potassium and phosphorus on three field scenarios: application based on soil test data with the field divided into 2.5 acre grids, application based on soil type, and application based on historical crop removal data using GIS software. The results were compared to the farmer’s normal production practices of fertilizer application without precision agriculture technology.

“Theoretically, combining field-based data with the ability to vary input usage at specific points within a field using precision agriculture should increase input efficiency,” said Barker. “Increased efficiency should improve profit margins and result in the adoption of more environmentally sound practices.”

Based on the results of the study, Barker found that in each scenario involving variable rate fertilizer applications, fertilizer savings ranged from $36 to more than $88 per acre when compared to normal production practices and no precision agriculture use.

“Overall fertilizer use (17,325 pounds for the 45-acre field) was the highest using the farmer’s normal production practice of uniform application,” said Barker.

Using grid soil sampling and variable rate applications, fertilizer use was reduced by 3,420 pounds. Using variable rate fertilization applications based on soil type and on historical crop removal data each reduced overall fertilizer use by more than 7,200 pounds.

“With today’s soaring fertilizer prices, those savings can have a significant impact,” said Barker. “In most precision agriculture circles, the most often asked question is ‘Does precision agriculture pay?’ In this study the answer is yes,” said Barker.

Results of the study can be found by logging on to OSU Extension’s Ohio Ag Manager Web site at http://ohioagmanager.osu.edu/~ohioagmanager/news/index.php#barker

Leave a Reply

Professionals Stories
Simplot Truck on Wilcox Farm
Ag Tech GlobalSimplot Taps Spensa to Power Advisor Platform
April 28, 2017
J.R. Simplot Co. announced it has entered into a partnership with Spensa Technologies Inc., an agriculture services company based in Read More
Purdue Online Course
ProfessionalsPurdue University’s Online Precision Ag Course Receives Award
April 25, 2017
An online course offered by Purdue University’s Agronomy e-Learning Academy, Precision Agriculture, has received the 2017 Digital Education Excellence in Read More
GPS, Guidance
Business ManagementPromoting Precision Agricultural Innovation in a Risk Averse Marketplace
April 24, 2017
As precision agriculture consultants we constantly are being asked our opinions on where to invest, and how to strategically invest Read More
Case IH Autonomous concept vehicle
ProfessionalsOpinion: What the Heck is A.I. Going to do for Agriculture?
April 24, 2017
Let’s pause from the daily toils of ag for a minute and start thinking about the future. In a very Read More
Trending Articles
GPS, Guidance
Business ManagementPromoting Precision Agricultural Innovation in a Risk Averse Marketplace
April 24, 2017
As precision agriculture consultants we constantly are being asked our opinions on where to invest, and how to strategically invest Read More
Data ManagementInnovation Series Highlights: The Weather Company’s Rob Berglund on Cognitive Computing
April 19, 2017
Rob Berglund, global director of sales, energy and agriculture at The Weather Company, discusses IBM’s Watson and applications for advanced analytics that will fundamentally change Read More
Corn close up
Data ManagementFarmers Business Network Releases State of the Industry Style Report
April 17, 2017
Farmer’s Business Network (FBN) released today its “The Voice of the Farmer”, a special research report on the state of Read More
Soybean Closeup
Ag Tech GlobalPrecision Agriculture Helps Brazilian Farmers Top 90-Bushel Soybean Yield
April 5, 2017
In the 2016/2017 harvest, the Mato Grossense Institute of Economics (IMEA) estimated that the largest soybean state in Brazil will Read More
Grower Retaile iPad
ProfessionalsField Scouting Apps Boost Efficiency, Speed
March 31, 2017
Scouting is one of the most critical services that ag retailers and consultants can offer their grower-customers. The need for Read More
Bruce Rasa corn AgVoice app
Data ManagementVoice-To-Data Tool Shows Promise For Scouting
March 24, 2017
See it, speak it, record it. No pens, no paper, no lost information. In a nutshell that’s what Bruce Rasa Read More
Latest News
Simplot Truck on Wilcox Farm
Ag Tech GlobalSimplot Taps Spensa to Power Advisor Platform
April 28, 2017
J.R. Simplot Co. announced it has entered into a partnership with Spensa Technologies Inc., an agriculture services company based in Read More
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
Ag Tech GlobalBASF Fortifies Digital Farming Offer with ZedX Acquisit…
April 27, 2017
BASF has signed an agreement to acquire US-based company ZedX, a leader in the development of digital agricultural intelligence. The Read More
Sentera
DronesSentera Announces May Release of Multispectral Double 4…
April 27, 2017
Sentera announced the release of its Multispectral Double 4K Sensor, offering five precise spectral bands: blue, green, red, red edge, Read More
Data Science tablet
Data ManagementHow to Address the Challenges of Data Science in Agricu…
April 26, 2017
Recently, Joe Byrum wrote an excellent article on the state of machine learning in agriculture. In it, Joe highlighted one Read More
Industry NewsFrom PrecisionAg with Love: Thanks, President Trump! (O…
April 26, 2017
Without getting too far into the weeds, I think it’s safe to say that today America feels more divided than Read More
Purdue Online Course
ProfessionalsPurdue University’s Online Precision Ag Course Re…
April 25, 2017
An online course offered by Purdue University’s Agronomy e-Learning Academy, Precision Agriculture, has received the 2017 Digital Education Excellence in Read More
Nuffield Scholarship
Ag Tech GlobalNuffield: Promoting the Diffusion of Knowledge of Preci…
April 24, 2017
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet John Stevenson, a 2016 Nuffield Australia Scholarship winner.  As part of the scholarship, John Read More
GPS, Guidance
Business ManagementPromoting Precision Agricultural Innovation in a Risk A…
April 24, 2017
As precision agriculture consultants we constantly are being asked our opinions on where to invest, and how to strategically invest Read More
Case IH Autonomous concept vehicle
ProfessionalsOpinion: What the Heck is A.I. Going to do for Agricult…
April 24, 2017
Let’s pause from the daily toils of ag for a minute and start thinking about the future. In a very Read More
Imagery ipad
Imagery/SensingNew Opportunities with In-season Imagery?
April 24, 2017
When I think about precision agriculture my usual thoughts are around the continuous learning about the variability in a field. Read More
Data ManagementNew Partnership: Farmers Edge, Allied Cooperative Link …
April 24, 2017
Farmers Edge announced it has partnered with Allied Cooperative, a provider of agronomy, feed, grain, and equipment services to growers Read More
Retailer Grower Tractor
ProfessionalsAg Attorney: Sorry Right to Repair Advocates, But You&#…
April 21, 2017
(via AgLaw.us) This recent article on Motherboard is getting a lot of press: “Why American Farmers are Hacking Their Tractors Read More
ProfessionalsAgFunder: Clean Seed’s Wireless Smart Seeder is Set to …
April 21, 2017
(Via AgFunderNews.com) Heard of Clean Seed Capital Group? No? You will very soon because this Canadian company has been quietly Read More
Business ManagementBionic Leaves: Future Source of Endless Fertilizer?
April 21, 2017
*Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Sentera software
Decision Support SoftwareSentera Launching Field-Edge Plant Population Analysis …
April 20, 2017
Sentera is excited to announce the launch of its closed beta for field-edge Plant Population Analysis, available through its AgVault Read More
Data ManagementFarm Market iD Launches Sales & Marketing Platform
April 20, 2017
Following Farm Market iD’s February 2017 introduction of FieldVision, its mobile data-delivery platform, the company announced today its newest online Read More
Data ManagementInnovation Series Highlights: The Weather Company’…
April 19, 2017
Rob Berglund, global director of sales, energy and agriculture at The Weather Company, discusses IBM’s Watson and applications for advanced analytics that will fundamentally change Read More
Data ManagementInnovation Series Highlights: EFC Systems & 5 Facto…
April 19, 2017
Ernie Chappell of EFC Systems discusses five factors impacting the ag retail industry, the competitive advantages of enhanced customer engagement Read More