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

Service Providers Stories
AmericasPrecision Farming Companies to Watch in 2018 (OPINION)
January 17, 2018
My friends, as many of you told me repeatedly throughout the last 12 months, 2017 was an interesting year in Read More
Corn-Planter
Grower Services & SolutionsCorn Planter: The Train of Consequences
January 11, 2018
It’s always planter season in our shop but now that harvest is done the corn planter is the next piece Read More
Anez-Consulting-Paul-Anez-and-Michael-Dunn
Service ProvidersAnez Consulting: Focus On Fertility
January 9, 2018
Central Minnesota features variability aplenty when it comes to soil characteristics and topography, from flat, black expanses rich in organic Read More
Agrible
Grower Services & SolutionsAgrible to Launch Retailer Services in 2018
January 9, 2018
It’s a new year, which means new market challenges. Full service retailers are searching for ways to differentiate themselves and Read More
Trending Articles
John-Deere-Cab-GPS
Data ManagementPrecision Ag Hardware and Software: A Little Off-Season Maintenance Goes A Long Way
January 11, 2018
All service technicians have heard this line. Most often when spring makes its anticipated return to our lives. It is Read More
Anez-Consulting-Paul-Anez-and-Michael-Dunn
Service ProvidersAnez Consulting: Focus On Fertility
January 9, 2018
Central Minnesota features variability aplenty when it comes to soil characteristics and topography, from flat, black expanses rich in organic Read More
Agrishow2017
Americas5 Best Ag Tech Shows in Brazil
January 8, 2018
Brazil continues to demonstrate its potential in agriculture. Several international companies are investing in our country because we have a Read More
Farmer and computer
Service ProvidersPrecision Agriculture Writers Wanted To Join Our Team in 2018
December 10, 2017
About The Opportunity: PrecisionAg.com is looking for people to join our team in 2018 and submit original content to our Read More
Harvested-Corn-Field-Clouds
Data ManagementWeather Services Advance Precision Agriculture
December 4, 2017
Some estimates suggest over half of growers’ activities are impacted by weather conditions, from field workability to fertility management to harvest Read More
Wheat-an-oats-Daniel-X-ONeil
Data ManagementWill Open-Source Finally Unlock Ag Technology’s Potential?
November 28, 2017
To Aaron Ault’s eyes, ag technology right now is something like a walled garden — not unlike the Microsoft of Read More
Latest News
Lee_Brittany
Specialty CropsFlorida Blue Farms Digging Data for Savings and Profit
January 17, 2018
Brittany Lee is no stranger to land management, writes Frank Giles on GrowingProduce.com. She grew up around it, observing her parents Read More
AmericasPrecision Farming Companies to Watch in 2018 (OPINION)
January 17, 2018
My friends, as many of you told me repeatedly throughout the last 12 months, 2017 was an interesting year in Read More
farmer-tractor-ipad
Data ManagementThe Era of Digital Agriculture: Opportunities and Chall…
January 17, 2018
The digital revolution is changing the way agriculture is done. Rapid population growth, changes in market demands, depleting agricultural land, Read More
Data ManagementBlockchain: Making Data Cleaner, More Secure
January 16, 2018
Probably most professionals who deal with business data have at least heard the term “blockchain” bantered about as potentially the Read More
Soybean-field-clouds-Photo-courtesy-of-Earl-R-Shumaker
Data ManagementBetting on Rain? The Accuracy and Reliability of Precip…
January 16, 2018
For you sports junkies out there, if I could prove to you that I can correctly predict winners and losers Read More
center-pivot-irrigation-drop-sprinklers-on-corn
Precision IrrigationFinding Your Precision Ag Mindset
January 15, 2018
A precision mindset is the most important requirement for successful precision ag technology adoption. One of my first VRI (variable Read More
Drone-and-operator-Photo-courtesy-of-Kray-Technologies
DronesCrop Protection Application by Drone: A Q&A with Kr…
January 15, 2018
January is a busy month for agricultural companies. It’s a month that strong sales can set the mood for the Read More
Data ManagementAgGateway Grain Traceability Proof-of-Concept Seeks Ind…
January 15, 2018
AgGateway’s Precision Agriculture and Grain & Feed councils have issued a call for participation for a proof-of-concept initiative in AgGateway’s Read More
John-Deere-Cab-GPS
Data ManagementPrecision Ag Hardware and Software: A Little Off-Season…
January 11, 2018
All service technicians have heard this line. Most often when spring makes its anticipated return to our lives. It is Read More
Corn-Planter
Grower Services & SolutionsCorn Planter: The Train of Consequences
January 11, 2018
It’s always planter season in our shop but now that harvest is done the corn planter is the next piece Read More
Robotics/Labor SaversSmart Ag Announces Driverless Tractor Automation Platfo…
January 11, 2018
An Iowa technology company has unlocked the tremendous potential for automation in agriculture by developing the first cloud-based platform for Read More
Anez-Consulting-Paul-Anez-and-Michael-Dunn
Service ProvidersAnez Consulting: Focus On Fertility
January 9, 2018
Central Minnesota features variability aplenty when it comes to soil characteristics and topography, from flat, black expanses rich in organic Read More
Agrible
Grower Services & SolutionsAgrible to Launch Retailer Services in 2018
January 9, 2018
It’s a new year, which means new market challenges. Full service retailers are searching for ways to differentiate themselves and Read More
jeremy-speaking
Grower Services & SolutionsGrower and Precision Ag Services: Opportunities Lost
January 9, 2018
I often spend time with growers, talking about their operations, and the processes they go through each season to do Read More
Winters-Farming-farm-manager-Alex-Bergwerff-and-Ranch-Systems-marketing-and-business-development-manager-Hylon-Kaufmann
Precision IrrigationInside California Irrigation: Winters Farming
January 9, 2018
As many of us already know, almonds tend to get a bad rap for their water-use efficiency — or some Read More
Sentera software
DronesSentera Offering Elevation Data Mapping Via AgVault
January 9, 2018
Sentera announces the availability of elevation maps within the Sentera AgVault platform, offering agronomists, crop consultants, and growers additional field Read More
Industry NewsRaven, South Dakota State University Link Up: What You …
January 9, 2018
On Tuesday afternoon Raven and South Dakota State University (SDSU) held a press conference on the SDSU campus in Sioux Read More
Agrishow2017
Americas5 Best Ag Tech Shows in Brazil
January 8, 2018
Brazil continues to demonstrate its potential in agriculture. Several international companies are investing in our country because we have a Read More