2017 Precision Dealership Survey: Making the Turn Toward Decision Agriculture

Editor’s note: The CropLife®/Purdue precision dealer services survey is the longest-running continuous survey of precision farming adoption. The 209 respondents included cooperatives (47%), independent retailers (37%), and retailers part of a regional or national chain (16%). Seventy-eight percent of the respondents were from the U.S. Midwest, 9% West, and 7% from the South. A full report detailing all of the results will be posted online later this summer. View the full report from the previous survey in 2015 here

It has been a long road to fully implement the vision crafted two decades ago — where soil, nutrient, yield, EC, remote sensing, and other data would be transformed into knowledge to guide decisions of inputs and precise amounts of seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides applied across crop fields. All of which would substantially reduce input costs, increase productivity, reduce the environmental footprint, and transform crop production. Some of this has come to be, but much more has not.

Figure 1 Precision Ag Survey
Figure 1. Click to enlarge.

Figure 2 Precision Ag Survey
Figure 2. Click to enlarge.

But the 2017 precision dealer survey results show large upticks in adoption in not only the technologies to measure spatial and temporal variations within fields, but in the technology of addressing these via variable-rate applications of fertilizers, lime, and seeds. For example, after a 10-year stretch where only around half of dealers were offering grid and zone soil sampling, this increased to 67% of dealers offering in 2015, to 75% now in 2017 (Figure 1). Dealers offering satellite imagery, a possible foundation for creating zones or guiding site-specific decisions, increased from 48% in 2015 to 55% now, and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) services from 19% to 30%. Variable-rate technology (VRT), where an informed approach is used to address variability across fields, has correspondingly increased (Figure 2). Throughout the 2000s decade about half of dealers were offering VRT fertilizer applications, but this increased to 69% in 2015 and to 78% in 2017. Lime VRT was up as well, and VRT seeding recommendations made a huge jump, from 24% in 2013 to 50% in 2015, and in 2017 with 52% of dealers offering these services.

Looking at Crop Management

This site-specific side of crop management has been poised for its coming-out moment since grid and zone soil sampling, yield monitors, and variable rate technology first became commonplace in the mid 1990s. But a decade ago the initial excitement became bogged down in the details — in that field environments were more complicated than we had thought. We could see correlations among factors, but not always cause and effect. With rectangular grids or multiple acre management zones we may not have been capturing a resolution fine enough to characterize fields. And dealing with all of the data proved to be cumbersome with yesterday’s computers and data portability, fumbling with data cards, CDs, and flash drives.

But the 2015 and now the 2017 results signal a change. Some is certainly related to technological capability: Cloud data storage and telematics are now common, which makes managing and moving around large data sets much less cumbersome. Computer processing speeds and data transfer rates are multiples of what were available just a few years ago. Another piece could be related to an explosion in data-related service providers and their site-specific decision tools, many of whom entered the market in the last five years.

Automation Leads the Way

In contrast to the data-intense technologies that underlie decision agriculture are a set of automated practices that don’t depend on a field’s agronomic characteristics, only a field’s size and shape and where the machine has been. Guidance systems were viewed by some as a luxury when they entered the market in the early 2000s — who can’t accurately steer a tractor with their own two hands? But the economic benefits of reducing overlaps and skips, allowing drivers to work longer hours with less fatigue, to come back to row cultivate or sidedress on previously marked rows, and to work through dust, fog, and through the night proved substantial.

Figure 3 Precision Ag Survey
Figure 3. Click to enlarge.

Figure 4 Precision Ag Survey
Figure 4. Click to enlarge.

Figure 5 Precision Ag Survey
Figure 5. Click to enlarge.

The guidance numbers indicate a maturing market, at 78% adoption, along with section controllers, used at three-fourths of dealerships (Figure 3). Piggy-backing with guidance, GPS-guided boom section/nozzle controllers on sprayers have overall proven very effective in saving inputs along point rows, waterways, and field borders. Another guidance-related technology, sprayer turn compensation, is emerging with 22% adoption by dealers. Turn compensation adds value more subtly by helping to reduce over- and under-application rates vs. reducing doubling-up and skips.

What Will Lead?

So as decision agriculture matures, what types of decisions are leading the way? A new question in 2017 asked dealers to gauge the influence of pooled data on of a variety of factors related to crop management decisions (Figure 4). This would be data aggregated from multiple farms, either managed within the dealership or as part of an outside offering.

Leading the way, as might be expected, were crop nutrient decisions where 43% of dealers said phosphorus and potassium decisions were at least somewhat influenced by pooled data, 39% saying nitrogen decisions were being influenced, and 37% saying liming decisions were influenced. Seeding decisions were second in line, where 39% indicated pooled data had at least some influence for overall hybrid/variety placement and 30% said were influencing variable hybrid or variety placement in fields.Responses indicate that pooled data had less influence on decisions related to pesticide selection, overall seeding rates, variable site-specific seeding rates, and decisions related to cropping sequence and rotation. On another new question, less than half of dealers (45%) indicated their company had a customer data privacy statement and/or a data terms and conditions agreement.

Looking for ROI

Finally, while many of us still enjoy the mental rush that comes from seeing things in a new way with imagery, a telling yield map, or interpolated soil sampling results, in the end it all has to pay the bills. Those bills can be paid in multiple ways — through increased returns for that specific activity, but also through reducing the costs to the dealership, as might be the case with guidance, section controllers, or fleet logistics management. Or the indirect benefits of enhancing customer relationships or providing a product or service not available from a competitor.

When dealers were asked about profitability of the services they offer, precision soil sampling and VRT fertilizer applications stood out positively from the others (Figure 5). Notable on the unprofitable side were dealers who offer UAV services, where 53% of those with a UAV indicated they were not breaking even or didn’t know. UAV technology is exciting, but it has been hard to tie to a product or service that offers value to a farmer.

Leave a Reply

Equipment Stories

PrecisionAg Vision Conference
Precision AgPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
EquipmentAgTech Summit Aiming High for Modern Farming Solutions
June 12, 2017
THRIVE AgTech, in partnership with SVG Partners and Forbes, is hosting the third annual Forbes AgTech Summit June 28-29 in Read More
Central Valley Ag Randolph, NE
Precision AgLand O’Lakes Invests in EFC Systems
June 12, 2017
Land O’Lakes, Inc. has made a minority equity investment in EFC Systems, Inc., an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and precision Read More
Wilbur-Ellis’ new fertilizer blending facility, located in Mott, ND, was designed by A.J. Sackett & Sons.
BlendersSackett-Waconia Restructures its Sales Force
June 12, 2017
Sackett-Waconia has added three new positions to their sales team: John Lamneck as Regional Account Manager – Eastern U.S.; Craig Read More
Trending Articles
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
Precision AgPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
Crop InputsExperts: Mild Winter, Early Planting Will Increase Soybean Insect Threat
June 12, 2017
Higher than average temperatures this past winter affected much of the nation, especially the South and Midwest. The National Centers Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto ‘Picks Its Battles’ by Nixing Deere Deal
May 23, 2017
Having been in the trade journalism game since the mid-1980s, I remember several watershed moments during my career. One of Read More
Migrant farm workers
LegislationTrump: Immigration Crackdown Won’t Impact U.S. Agriculture
May 16, 2017
President Donald Trump said he would seek to keep his tough immigration enforcement policies from harming the U.S. farm industry Read More
AGCO Ratliff featured
Eric SfiligojRemembering Robert Ratliff
May 15, 2017
With all the fast-paced happenings in agriculture this spring, with multiple mergers in the works and planting season in full Read More
Case sprayer nozzle closeup
EquipmentSpray Application: A Nozzle Renaissance
May 2, 2017
If you had asked four-decade ag veteran Mark Bartel, President of Wilger Inc., just a few years ago what lay Read More
Latest News
Young Corn Plants
Eric SfiligojLaunching New Seed Traits: Wait on China . . . Or Else!
June 26, 2017
In life, no one likes the waiting game. In agriculture, however, playing the waiting game is very important – especially Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMonsanto Speaks on Dicamba Issues in Arkansas
June 26, 2017
Monsanto’s Chief Technology Officer, Robb Fraley, issued the following statement following the Arkansas State Plant Board’s proposal to ban dicamba, Read More
Corn Field
Seed/BiotechCorn Insect Bt Technologies Offer Cost-effective, Proac…
June 26, 2017
When farm economics are challenging, farmers look for ways to bolster profit margins, including reducing input costs. Some may think Read More
Crop InputsArkansas Plant Board Votes to Ban Dicamba — Now W…
June 23, 2017
The Arkansas State Plant Board has voted to pass a proposed emergency rule to ban the use of in-crop dicamba, Read More
Engenia soybeans
Crop InputsBASF: ‘Closely Monitoring’ Dicamba Situatio…
June 22, 2017
BASF, whose Engenia herbicide is the target of more than 200 drift complaints in Arkansas, emailed the following statement to Read More
ManagementConsolidation Update
June 22, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss progress on manufacturer consolidation, and another big move for Midwest cooperative Central Valley Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
Crop InputsThreat of Dicamba Ban Looms in Arkansas
June 22, 2017
The Arkansas State Plant Board has rejected a proposed ban on the use of dicamba herbicide, but a procedural error Read More
Potash Agrium
Crop InputsAgrium-PotashCorp to become Nutrien upon Merger Complet…
June 21, 2017
Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. and Agrium Inc. have announced today that once the anticipated merger transaction closes, the new Read More
Crop InputsMidwestern BioAg Hosts TerraNu Fertilizer Plant Opening…
June 20, 2017
Last Friday, Midwestern BioAg was joined by over 80 local farmers, media and staff to celebrate the grand opening of Read More
Soybean Field
Industry NewsAligned Ag Distributors Names New President
June 19, 2017
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC announced this morning the appointment of Mary Tolke to the position of President/CEO, effective July 1. Read More
ManagementPlotting Corn, AGCO/Asmark’s Applicator Training Center…
June 15, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about their recent visits to Columbus, OH, and Bloomington, IL, along with an Read More
Seed/BiotechDow AgroSciences Announces Launch of Enlist Corn for 20…
June 14, 2017
Enlist corn will be commercially available in the U.S. for the 2018 growing season. Dow AgroSciences announced the launch today Read More
ASMARK AGCO Applicator Training Center
EmployeesAsmark, AGCO Open Training Center for Beginning Applica…
June 13, 2017
AGCO Corp. and the Asmark Institute have opened a new Applicator Training Center, created in a collaboration between the two Read More
Power to Do More Contest Winners
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Announces Three Winners in Power to Do…
June 13, 2017
Thousands of votes have been cast and three farmers have been awarded the power to do more with a $10,000 Read More
Frogeye leaf spot
FungicidesStrobilurin-resistant Frogeye Leaf Spot Threat Looms wi…
June 13, 2017
Heavy spring rainfall throughout the South and Midwest delayed planting and created the perfect environment for diseases like frogeye leaf Read More
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
Precision AgPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
CHS St. Paul, MN fertilizer terminal
LegislationICGA Praises President Trump’s Remarks on Waterwa…
June 12, 2017
Illinois Corn Growers Association President Justin Durdan, a farmer from Utica, issued the following statement regarding President Donald Trump’s comments Read More
Wheat Growers
UncategorizedWheat Growers Names Tracy Linbo as Senior Vice Presiden…
June 12, 2017
Wheat Growers has hired Tracy Linbo as Senior Vice President of Agronomy. Linbo joins Wheat Growers after having served 10 Read More