Big Moves In Precision

As we move further into the technology revolution, the technology is catching up to the ideas and dreams many had about of how precision technologies could be integrated into the ag industry. We see a parallel revolution in the consumer market as smartphones and iPads change how technology is incorporated into peoples’ day-to-day lives.

One of the biggest changes for precision technologies is the impact of a much wider array of GPS correction sources. With more options related to affordability and the level of precision offered, technologies like autosteer, on-the-go sensing and guidance-related systems are seeing rapid adoption. At the same time, some of the more traditional GPS/non-RTK precision services are becoming standard in parts of the Midwest.

Use Of Guidance Systems, RTK

Between 2009 and 2011, the use of GPS guidance systems with auto control/autosteer almost doubled, rising from 28% of the materials custom applied in 2009 to 41% in 2011. This corresponded to a similar decrease in the use of manual control/lightbars, dropping from 68% of the materials applied in 2009 to 46% in 2011. The impetus for this change to autocontrol/autosteer guidance systems has been a wider availability of types of GPS corrections so growers and dealers can choose what best suits their individual needs. With the improved accuracy in real time signals, many new agricultural technologies are now poised to take off including not only autosteer guidance systems but also variable-rate seeding, on-the-go sensors and auto nozzle shut offs.

We asked those using autocontrol GPS guidance systems what type of correction they were using (see sidebar for a guide to terminology). The most common correction was Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), with almost two-thirds of the autocontrol guidance system users indicating they used this free service available through the FAA. A quarter of the respondents (25%) were purchasing a correction service from an RTK array/cluster such as John Deere and Trimble, while 21% were purchasing satellite correction such as OmniSTAR XP and StarFire2.

For those who are far from stationary bases or who have areas in their fields with poor signal strength, purchasing an individual base station is often the best choice. At this time, 14% of those using autoguidance have purchased their own RTK base station, either a stationary one they can place for the best signal in their market area or a portable base station that gets moved as they work on different farms/areas.

Two areas that are just at the initial phase of adoption are RTN (Real Time Networks), which use a mesh layout of base stations to provide better service coverage, and CORS (Continually Operating Reference Stations), which work on cell phone data plans to provide wireless service not dependent on line-of-sight radio waves. Both are currently being used by fewer than 5% of the respondents.

Barriers To Growth

Despite the excitement of the wide array of Differential GPS for guidance systems and all that it brings, there are still many areas in the U.S. where precision technologies have not yet taken off. The Midwest offers the advantage of often large, unobstructed views, many service providers and large acreages where the cost and learning curve for adopting precision technology can be more easily justified. In other parts of the U.S., the cost of adoption is still high.

Survey respondents were asked to rate a series of issues as to how significant a barrier they were to the growth and expansion of precision agriculture in their area. This was the same list of barriers that we asked about in 2009, 2008 and 2004. Figures 9 and 10 show the percentage of respondents who agreed with each customer and dealer issue listed (rated a four or five out of five, where five is “strongly agree that this is a barrier”).

The strong ag economy is evident in the ratings this year over two years ago. Though farm income was still the biggest customer issue impacting precision service adoption, the levels have fallen dramatically from 50% of the respondents agreeing it was a barrier in 2009, to only 35% in 2011.

The impact of improvements in technology and the usability for the end-user is evident in the ratings. The time involved in interpreting data and making decisions is becoming less of a barrier as technology becomes more user-friendly (dropping from 26% of the respondents saying it was a barrier in 2009 to only 19% in 2011). Other customer barriers are back to 2008 levels.

Most of the dealer-specific issues were no more important a barrier this year than they were a year ago, with several issues actually being mentioned by fewer respondents. Cost and fees continue to be the biggest barrier to dealer adoption (55% of the respondents agreeing). Almost the same number (54%) felt that the costs were high due to rapidly changing precision equipment, resulting in continual pressure to buy better technology and spend more to be able to provide the services demanded.

As this technology improves, however, some of the barriers are decreasing. As usability improves, it becomes less of a barrier to find employees who can deliver a precision package to customers (dropping from 49% of the respondents in 2009 to 44% in 2011). Demonstrating value to customers is decreasing as technology improves and becomes more accepted (dropping from 46% to 42% from 2009 to 2011). And as technologies start converging to standards, compatibility issues are becoming less of a problem for dealers (dropping from 49% to 41% of the respondents agreeing that it’s a barrier from 2009 to 2011).

Summary

As we move out of the early adoption phase of precision agriculture to more precise measurements and technologies, more compatibility between different technologies and better user interfaces, site-specific farming techniques are coming into their own. Similar to the adoption of smartphones and other wireless technologies among consumers, this then allows these technologies to become integral components of the ag industry.

Leave a Reply

Precision Ag Stories

Illinois Researchers
FertilizerMeasure Of Age In Soil Nitrogen Could Help Precision Agriculture
July 26, 2016
What’s good for crops is not always good for the environment. Nitrogen, a key nutrient for plants, can cause problems Read More
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
Precision AgSix Reasons Senior Executives Must Attend The First-Ever PrecisionAg Vision Conference
July 11, 2016
As I made a West Coast swing this spring to visit companies including The Climate Corp. and Planet Labs, there Read More
EquipmentSouth Dakota State: ‘All In’ On Precision Ag Education
July 6, 2016
Last summer, when we were in the midst of planning for our August PrecisionAg Innovation Series conference, we got an Read More
Craig Houin Sunrise Cooperative iPad
Precision AgState Of Precision Ag 2016: Gut Check Time For Value
May 31, 2016
There’s no denying that precision technologies and practices are more vibrant than ever. Equipment manufacturers have fine-tuned the hardware for Read More
Trending Articles
Heritage Cooperative
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Designs State-Of-The-Art Facility For Heritage Cooperative
July 4, 2016
Heritage Cooperative in Marysville, OH, needed an efficient liquid, dry and grain facility to serve the many needs of their Read More
The Andersons Waterloo
ManagementFirst Indiana Facility Certified Under 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program
June 27, 2016
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that The Andersons, Inc.’s Waterloo, IN, facility has been added to its Read More
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To Explore IT Solutions
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Eric SfiligojWhat’s Next For Monsanto?
May 31, 2016
For the folks at Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis, MO, it has been an eventful few weeks. Back on May Read More
Soybean Plant closeup
Industry NewsMonsanto Rejects Bayer Bid; Open To More Talks
May 25, 2016
Monsanto Co, the world’s largest seed company, turned down Bayer AG’s $62 billion acquisition bid as “incomplete and financially inadequate” Read More
Eric SfiligojPity The Monsanto Haters
May 23, 2016
An old saying goes thus: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” Given current events, there Read More
Latest News
Soil Young Corn
Crop InputsSmithsonian: 5 Things to Know About New GMO Labeling Bi…
July 27, 2016
On July 14, the House of Representatives passed a bill requiring large food companies to label products containing genetically modified Read More
Palmer pigweed in soybean stubble
HerbicidesSpecial Issue Of Weed Science Explores Human Aspects Of…
July 27, 2016
Weeds that evolve resistance to herbicides are a serious threat to global agricultural production. In this Special Issue of Weed Science, Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100CHS Businesses In Washington, Idaho Combining For Great…
July 27, 2016
As full-service ag retailers, CHS Primeland and CHS Farmers Co-op collectively serve farmers and other customers in 15 counties in Read More
Storage Tanks at Nachurs
Crop InputsNACHURS Joins Field to Market
July 27, 2016
NACHURS announced today that it has joined Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, a leading multi-stakeholder initiative working Read More
Illinois Researchers
FertilizerMeasure Of Age In Soil Nitrogen Could Help Precision Ag…
July 26, 2016
What’s good for crops is not always good for the environment. Nitrogen, a key nutrient for plants, can cause problems Read More
Kochia
Crop InputsNufarm Launches New Herbicide for Resistant Kochia
July 25, 2016
Nufarm introduces Scorch herbicide for U.S. farmers and ranchers combating a broad range of troublesome broadleaf weeds. A unique premix Read More
ManagementNew Rabobank Report Calls for Farmer ROI Focus
July 25, 2016
As U.S. row crop farmers brace themselves for a third year of negative margins, Rabobank believes farmers must lower the Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsBloomberg: Syngenta-Chem China Deal on Track for Regula…
July 25, 2016
Syngenta AG, which has agreed to be taken over by China National Chemical Corp. for $43 billion, said talks with Read More
ManagementGROWMARK Meeting Visit, Company Takeover Updates, and R…
July 22, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent speaking engagement at GROWMARK’s eastern event, crop protection company merger rumors, Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto: EU Approves Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Imports
July 22, 2016
Monsanto Co. announced today that the European Commission has granted import approval for Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans. This milestone Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop InputsSyngenta Announces Alfalfa Seed Split Off
July 22, 2016
On September 1, 2016, Syngenta will transfer sales and distribution of alfalfa seed to the NEXGROW branded business that is Read More
Dow DuPont
Crop InputsDuPont, Dow Shareholders Approve Merger
July 21, 2016
DuPont and The Dow Chemical Company announced that, at their respective special meetings of stockholders held today, stockholders of both Read More
ManagementLand O’Lakes Announces SUSTAIN Business Unit, Oth…
July 20, 2016
Land O’Lakes, Inc. today announced the formal organization of a new business unit, SUSTAIN, and its leadership. SUSTAIN will focus Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Crop InputsReport: Bayer Shareholder Proposes Monsanto ‘Host…
July 20, 2016
One of Bayer AG’s top 20 shareholders said Wednesday it may make sense for the life-science company to launch an Read More
Young Corn Closeup
Industry NewsNew Leaf Symbiotics Snags Former Monsanto Microbials Le…
July 20, 2016
NewLeaf Symbiotics, announced today the appointment of Dr. Janne Kerovuo as Vice President for Research and Discovery.  Dr. Kerovuo comes Read More
Corn and ditch
ManagementStudy: Saturated Buffers Reduce Nitrates From Subsurfac…
July 19, 2016
The Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (ADMC), Agricultural Drainage Management Systems Task Force and Dr. Dan Jaynes with the National Laboratory Read More
Case sprayer nozzle closeup
EquipmentAgronomists, CCAs, Custom Applicators Invited To FSR Ag…
July 19, 2016
Agronomists, Certified Crop Advisers (CCA) and custom applicators can stay current on agronomy issues on the grounds of the Farm Read More
Soybean Field
LegislationOhio Soybean Association Names Brian Hill Legislator Of…
July 19, 2016
The Ohio Soybean Association (OSA) has announced that State Representative Brian Hill (R-Zanesville) has been named one of two Legislators of Read More