As dealers can attest, interest and adoption of precision farming technology by farmers continues to grow.
I can’t recall a conversation with a dealer who told me that precision was nothing more than a fad that wouldn’t last, although I’m sure there are plenty of skeptics out there.
But it’s hard to argue with feedback from farmers who plan to increase their use of precision technology this year, according to the 5th Annual No-Till Farmer No-Till Practices Survey.
According to the results — featured in the May 2013 issue of Conservation Tillage Guide, a sister publication of Precision Farming Dealer — respondents plan to incorporate more technology into this year’s cropping operations, compared to 2012.
Use of yield monitor data analysis, field mapping, tractor auto-steer and satellite aerial imagery are up from last year, according to the survey. The biggest jump is in the use of tractor auto-steer systems this year, 44.4%, compared to 37% in 2012.
While many dealers note that auto-steer is the starting point for precision technology, there appear to be plenty of farmers just taking that first step. More progressive precision practices like implement steering and remote sensing remained virtually unchanged in planned adoption from 2012 to 2013, at 6% and 3%, respectively.
Interestingly, a smaller percentage of respondents plan to utilize variable-rate technologies this year, compared to 2012. In 2013, only 17.8% will use variable-rate seeding, down from 22% last year, and 30.2% plan to use variable-rate fertilizing, down from 34% in 2012.
Cost is a major consideration for farmers when deciding how far and how fast they want to get into precision technology.
According to the survey, spending on precision products has declined since 2011, when respondents estimated spending an average of $8,864, compared to $6,839 in 2012. This year, farmers plan to invest an average of $6,974 in precision farming technology, according to the survey.
While the estimates have dropped the last few years, it could be that farmers are getting more for their money. More companies are emerging in the precision market and some dealers I’ve talked with say that increased competition means products are becoming more affordable.
And Mother Nature may have played a role in farmer spending last year with drought conditions plaguing a good portion of the U.S. As one precision consultant notes, “When it comes to equipment, the bells and whistles are the first pieces that farmers will cut out of their budget.”
But there still appears to be no shortage of opportunities for dealers to grow and expand their precision business. Many are diversifying their offerings — going beyond hardware — to include data management and remote service packages.
So even if farmers are spending less on technology, precision specialists will have plenty to keep them busy, especially at this time of year.