Malcolm Gladwell’s book, "The Tipping Point," looks at how ideas or concepts can behave like viruses. As they infect enough people and build critical mass, they "tip" and become pervasive throughout society. We’ll remember 2014 as the tipping point for incorporating data to drive decisions on the farm.
Farmers can effectively create their own research farm by creating replicated strips in their fields and tallying the results. Want to know if Hybrid A performs better than Hybrid B? Want to know if you should’ve used a basic or premium seed treatment package? Want to know if that V5 fungicide application paid off? Big data can help farmers unlock those questions and many others.
Before we can run, though, we have to learn to walk. Farmers must develop a comfort level with precision agriculture hardware and software in order to harness their farm’s data into actionable management changes. An AgWeb survey in October revealed that 25% of respondents use no precision ag technology on their operation, and less than 20% use it throughout their business.
At the same time, these technologies can help farmers become better informed, more proactive and ultimately more profitable as they make quicker in-season decisions. The same AgWeb survey shows respondents who use precision ag technology throughout their operations captured average corn yields of 176 bu. per acre, compared with 152 bu. per acre for those who are not using precision ag. At today’s commodity prices, that’s nearly $100 extra per acre a farmer could realize.
That’s not even addressing other more subjective benefits of precision agriculture. Auto-steer capability, for example, eases operator fatigue and allows you to concentrate on other aspects of running the tractor. How do you assign a dollar value to something like that?