CROP UPDATE: Precision agriculture benefits nearly every producer

Posted: Jan. 30, 2013 1:55 pm Updated: Feb. 28, 2013 9:15 am


The term "precision agriculture" is pretty common today. And to different people it probably means different things. Most folks understand the concept. The majority of producers are still not utilizing the concept on their farm, but for nearly every producer there are reasons why they should consider the advantages of utilizing precision farming practices.

The first uses of precision ag were in applying varying rates of fertilizer and lime across a field. And in our rural areas with fields surrounded by gravel roads, the ability to vary the rate of lime probably showed the highest return.

The concept was that instead of fertilizing the field with one single rate, the field is broken into many smaller "fields," each fertilized based upon soil fertility values and crop. Since then, we've seen the uses expand to include just about every component of the season, from tilling (auto steer) and planting (auto steer, row shut off) to scouting, pest control (mapping and row/swath shut off), harvest (yield mapping) and fertilizer application (auto steer and swath control).

There really aren't many components of the farming enterprise where precision ag hasn't found value.

The reason why producers utilize precision ag is simple -- economics. And although the more acres you can go over, the higher the potential return, even smaller producers can see an improvement in efficiency and cost savings. It just takes a little longer (in some cases) to see the payoff.

But economics is only one reason why the decision to utilize this technology makes sense. Money savings may be the biggest reason, but other legitimate reasons include reducing operator fatigue, working more hours per day, reducing hours of operation (efficiency) and increasing understanding of the growing crop (remote sensing).

Keith Fuller, Fuller Fertilizer, will be discussing GPS at our upcoming Western Illinois/Northeast Missouri Notill/Crop Management Conference on Friday Feb. 8 at John Wood Community College in Quincy.

Other topics will include tillage system management, products for combating weed resistance, corn nematodes/diseases and grain marketing outlook.

The general session will feature a discussion on comparing tillage systems. Cost for the program is $15 per person. Register (for meals and materials) at

The program starts at 9 a.m. and concludes at 2 p.m. CCA credit is available.