How Precision Ag Pumps Up Profits

May 27, 2020

One of the most frequently asked questions farmers have about precision ag is: Will it pay off?

Most farmers find the answer to be yes. Whether it’s by streamlining workflows, reducing over-application of farm inputs or leveraging quality farm data to make better decisions, precision ag increases both productivity and profitability. 

Here are four common ways it can have a positive impact on your bottom line.

  1. Save on Farm Inputs

According to data from the 2017 Census of Agriculture, farm input costs increased an average of 2.48% from 2012, while farm profits dropped an average of 1.59%. With precision ag, you can reduce farm inputs while still protecting your yields and profitability.

Variable-rate and section control technologies combined with prescription maps can help achieve this by applying the right amount of product to the right place in your field and should yield measurable improvement in the first year. One Canadian farmer was able to reduce his overall fungicide costs by a third with variable-rate technology.

Other precision ag tools like GreenSeeker and WeedSeeker 2 use optical sensors to provide the right amount of nitrogen and herbicide, respectively, to apply as you move throughout your fields. We’ve found that the WeedSeeker 2 can cut chemical costs by up to 90%, and while using GreenSeeker in a corn-soybean rotation can increase corn yield by 18 bushels per acre.

  1. Reduce Costly Errors

If you have several employees on your farm, using precision ag software like Work Orders can simplify the process of assigning and tracking field work to increase productivity. It can also further protect your profits by reducing the potential for expensive errors, such as spraying an input like dicamba under the wrong weather conditions or making an application to the wrong field. 

  1. Make Profit-Driving Decisions

While precision ag can do a lot of the legwork in reducing expenses and boosting yield, it also gives you the power to make better decisions. As Jordan Wallace of GPS Ontario shared in a previous blog post, one grower he worked with learned from his yield data that a drowned-out pocket in his field was actually impacting 15 acres because it increased water saturation levels. This data showed that if he could fix the drainage zone, it would bring his field back into profitable production.

  1. Get a Quick ROI with Guidance and Steering

For those new to precision ag, the one technology that can offer the fastest ROI is guidance and steering, with autosteer providing an immediate benefit. This is because of how quickly and accurately guidance and steering will help you complete your field applications. 

A survey conducted in North Dakota found that of the 34% of farms using GPS guidance systems, machine time and fuel consumption both reduced around 6%, and of the 27% using autosteer, machine time and fuel consumption were further reduced by 5.75% and 5.33%, respectively. With autosteer, this translates to 492 gallons of fuel saved per farm and the monetized value of time saved at $851.27.

With some crops, it may bring even bigger payoffs. University of Georgia research found autosteer used in peanut production significantly reduced digging losses when inverting peanuts, reduced overlaps on spraying and tillage, and improved overall efficiency, resulting in a one-year payback for many farmers. 

Trimble customers can attest to these savings. Colorado farmer Troy Seaworth discovered that Trimble’s RTK guidance cut his farm’s fuel usage in half. It also reduced their hours, and he says every hour in the tractor costs $60-$80, making the savings significant.  

And as California farmer Tom Barcellos told Successful Farming magazine, an automated steering system from Trimble “turned out to be an unbelievable investment,” as he saw a 10-15% savings in fuel, along with improved efficiency, reduced operator fatigue, and less wear and tear on machinery.

Pushing Higher Profits with Precision Ag

These examples are just the start of how precision ag can help make farms more profitable.  To learn more about precision ag and how it can boost your bottom line, download the free Ultimate Guide to Precision Ag ebook.

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