The precision farming business is aggressively focused on the future — whether its product development and deployment, analytical application of collected field data or conceptual brainstorming of the next breakthrough.

All these initiatives are worthwhile, but it’s sometimes nice to reflect back on how the industry got to where it is today and why it’s headed where it is tomorrow.

Our sister publication, No-Till Farmer, recently completed crunching the numbers on its 2018 Operational Practices Benchmark study, which happens to be the 10 th annual report. (Read past reports at

In addition to cropping rotations, fertilizer application strategies and economic evaluation, the report also looks at no-tillers’ adoption of precision farming technology. A decade’s worth of analysis reveals some interesting trends and with one exception, precision equipment is being purchased and more utilized by No-Till Farmer readers today than ever before.

✓ Back in 2010, 42% of No-Till Farmer readers were using lightbars for guidance systems; today, that number stands at 38% — a 4-point decline.

✓ Taking the place of lightbars for many farmers is GPS tractor auto-steer. While only 34% of No-Till Farmer readers used that technology in 2010, some 55% of no-tillers now use tractor auto-steer.

✓ Other increases in precision technology from 2010 to the present include:

  • Field mapping up from 36% to 51%
  • Variable-rate seeding up from 14% to 27%
  • Variable-rate fertilizing up from 27% to 34%
  • Satellite aerial imagery up from 8% to 18%

More recently, No-Till Famer began tracking other precision technology usage and is seeing increases in drone usage starting at 2.5% in 2014 and up to 10.1% in 2017, auto-seed shutoff at 29.9% in 2015 and 38.5% in 2017 and auto-boom/nozzle shutoff from 32.2% in 2015 to 41.5% during last year's cropping season.

It will be interesting to see how different these numbers are in another 10 years and also what new technologies will have been adopted by then.