The Late Show

The old saying goes “better late than never.” This could also be an apt description of the state of the precision agriculture marketplace in 2010.

As I write this column, CropLife’s staff has just completed work on its State of Precision report, appearing in our June issue. This is a slightly different take on the annual Precision Ag Adoption survey we’ve conducted with the folks at Purdue University for the past 14 years.

For several years, conventional wisdom among industry experts predicted precision ag usage would blossom as technology and profits improved. However, according to data from surveys conducted between 2005 and 2007, the percentage of users held fairly steady at 56%.

Then, the lean times of late 2008 and 2009 hit. Again, precision ag usage didn’t move from the 56% mark. Many of us wondered if 2010 would tell a different precision story, considering how negative most folks were during the 2009 season.

But there is some positive news. According to this year’s survey, precision ag usage has moved forward, topping 60%. Although this uptick has shown up late, it has shown up nonetheless.

As might be expected, the reason for this gain, say respondents, is the generally poor economic state of agriculture over the past two years. “We’ve found that when farm economics are tightest is actually the time we have the best demand,” wrote one Iowa retailer. “People care a lot more about managing when things are tight.”

Look for more details in June 2010’s CropLife to learn what precision-based systems are proving to be the most popular and why. Even though it’s taken a while longer than expected, an increase in precision ag usage in the marketplace is welcome news indeed.

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