Tips for Finding Value from Precision Ag
One of the most common questions I get asked is, “What value will this bring to my operation?”
It’s the same question farmers ask before purchasing any piece of equipment. We must justify the cost, especially given these markets. Think of precision ag (PA) and data management as the research needed to support other farming decisions that you’re making. Farmers are always trying to improve. We start by improving the land we farm. As we make changes to be more efficient and to better care for our soil, yields improve. Yield improvement during the past 80+ years since hybrid corn was first planted is primarily from improved genetics. The other 40% of yield increase is due to management changes: higher seeding rates, better planter technology, seed treatments, tillage and other equipment improvements, fungicides, earlier planting, and many other practices implemented by individual farmers. Most of the yield gains from now on will likely come from micro-managing each farm down to the acre.
Precision ag tools can help you evaluate equipment, hybrids/varieties and other inputs as you move toward higher yields while keeping your costs in check. Maybe you’re already using 2.5-acre grid soil samples, but you’re seeing fertility issues or poor spots show up in areas not related to soil type. Maybe you have swings of 50 bushels per acre in corn yield in your fields, so you want to track the variation in productivity; you can use variable rate seeding on a planter or even try variable hybrid planting. Maybe you just want to keep better records and track when and where you plant each hybrid or variety, so you can plant the best genetics on each field. Again, PA tools can help you track incremental yield advances while keeping costs in check.
Start with the basics: capture quality yield data year after year; map your planting operations to track how each genetic package performs where it was placed; collect other field operations (spraying, fertilizing, soil sampling, etc.). Such data will help you build confidence as you plan for the future, whether that includes meeting with your Latham® Dealer, financial adviser, or planning for a farm transition.
Understanding data on your farm is critical because the next wave of yield improvement will most likely come from on-farm data and how we choose to use it! Managing all this data provides value, but it looks different for each farmer. Because there isn’t a “cookie cutter” approach for PA, we’re here to help you build data for the future. Feel free to contact me to learn more about Latham-led DataForward™ or farmer-led FieldXField™ crop planning.