Having moved into a new home during the last year with considerably more landscaping opportunities, one of my priorities this spring was to carve out a corner of the backyard for a garden.

With an experimental mindset and modest expectations (dampened by some early torrential rains), the crops are in stable condition as we approach the 4th of July. Checking on the plants each morning with my 3-year-old son, without fail, he asks, “Are they ready?”

Patience is not his strongest virtue, but his interest is constant as we measure plant growth and pluck invasive weeds together. Whether I have a budding agronomist on my hands remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a growth industry for farm equipment dealers.

Analysis of our just released 2017 Precision Farming Dealer Benchmark Study, reveal renewed emphasis and investment by retailers in agronomic services. How these analytical tools are being delivered by dealerships continues to be diverse, but there was a substantial increase in use of in-house agronomists.

Some 42.2% of dealers who offer data management services report staff agronomists as their primary delivery method, more than double the 2016 total (20%) and ahead if the previous high of 36.5% in 2015. And 33.7% say they require agronomic training for their precision specialists, up from 22.8% in 2016.

Notes one in-house agronomist at a large equipment dealership, “We’re trying to develop in-house agronomic training. The idea being if we can strengthen the relationship between the customer, their agronomist and us as a dealership, it really benefits everyone.” 

The rise in dealers’ delivery of data management services also correlated to increases in agronomic-related services. Dealers offering seed and fertilizer recommendations jumped 10% year-over-year to an all-time high of 28.9% in 2017. 

A bigger increase came in dealers offering soil sampling services, from 14.8% in 2016 to 27.8% this year. While not quite at the peak of 30.6% in 2015, the total is more than three times as high as the 2013 total (8.5%).

Sharing these statistics with my son probably won’t make much of an impression (though he has made some pretty unique “recommendations” for our garden). But for dealers, the information validates their commitment to growing the agronomic aspect of their precision business, or perhaps serves as motivation to develop this area for the future.