While they are optimistic about the future of optical crop-sensing systems, marketers admit that convincing farmers of their benefits has been a slow slog compared to pitching the advantages of navigation systems, planter row shutoffs and other precision ag technologies.

“I think even farmers who typically are early adopters of precision technology struggle to understand how an optical sensor works and whether they can trust it,” says Ag Leader’s Zielke.

Education is the key, adds Carol Snyder, advanced solutions and training manager for Topcon’s CropSpec sensor system. “There has been a big increase in growers who want to be able to apply variable-rate nitrogen on the go by using optical sensors,” she says. “They are excited about the idea, but they need to learn more about how to best use it in the field and validate rates that are needed by the crop.”

As more farmers and crop consultants use crop-sensing systems and more university crop sensor research is conducted, farmers, in general, are becoming more comfortable with the technology, says Trimble’s Linhart. “We are making progress. We are getting more growers coming up to us at farm shows saying they have been watching the technology and they are buying into it,” he says.