Perhaps the biggest overlooked ag story today, with nary a neon sign signaling its significance, is variable-rate technology. I remember first writing about it 10 years ago. At the time, we examined whether variable-rate technology paid for itself. But with prices for seed and fertilizer jumping in recent years, growers are scrambling to find ways to cut costs in this commodity-driven market. Variable rate is being seen as the next big hope.
This current decade, which was ushered in by vehicle guidance, will be ushered out by variable-rate technology. Expect to see more information about sensors and actuators that make it possible to truly farm by the foot, tailor-applying each input according to the needs of each area of your fields. No longer are we talking about whether variable-rate technology pays, but what equipment growers need for variable-rate application and how it works.
In our reader survey this year, 31% said they have not used precision farming equipment. Another 31% said they have either investigated or experimented with one or more precision farming practices but have not incorporated precision farming into their cropping operations. The remaining group of our readers (37%) said they have incorporated one or more precision farming practices.
For those of you who are still holding off, maybe now is the time to begin investigating the GPS receivers, monitors, controllers and software that will let you apply the right rate of the right product in your fields.