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Benefits of precision agriculture vary based on farm size, technology

The benefits of various types of precision agriculture are debatable, but a new study from the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service said GPS mapping has the largest impact on operating profit, followed by guidance systems and variable-rate technology.

GPS mapping, including yield monitors and soil and yield mapping, was shown in the study to increase operating profit by almost 3% on corn farmers, the ERS said.

That was followed by guidance, or auto steer, systems that improved profitability by about 2.5%, and variable-rate technology that raised profit on corn farms by 1.1%, according to the study.

The government report showed yield monitors were the most widely adopted precision agriculture technology, used on about half of U.S. farms, while guidance or auto-steer systems are used on about a third of farms. GPS-based yield mapping was used on about 25% of farms, and variable-rate technology was used on 16% to 26% of ag operations, the USDA said.

Not surprisingly, the largest farms – those with more than 2,900 acres – have double the adoption rate of precision ag technologies than the rest, the USDA said. About 80% of large farms use mapping, about 80% use guidance, and 30% to 40% use variable-rate technology.

“The share of all corn and soybean acres on which PA technologies are used tends to be higher than the share of farms, implying that larger farms are more likely to adopt these technologies,” the USDA said.

Oddly, adoption of some form of precision ag reduced labor costs by almost 70% on small farms from 140 to 400 acres, but increased labor costs on larger farms as the latter may use more information management and field-operation specialists.

“Precision agriculture technologies require a significant investment of capital and time, but may offer cost savings and higher yields through more precise management of inputs,” the USDA said.

(BY Successful Farming, source – http://ruralradio.com/agricultural/benefits-of-precision-agriculture-vary-based-on-farm-size-technology/)

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