Where are you on the precision farming adoption curve?
Farmers in states that lead in corn, soybean, wheat, and hog production are more likely to use precision agriculture practices than farmers in states that produce less. That’s according to the latest Technology Use report released in August 2023.
Produced by the USDA every two years, the survey asked farmers if their farm or ranch used precision agriculture practices to manage crops or livestock in the last 12 months. This includes the use of a global positioning system (GPS), GPS yield monitoring and soil mapping, variable rate input applications, drones for scouting fields or monitoring livestock, electronic tagging, precision feeding, robotic milking, etc.
The latest report was based on a June survey of 14,000 agricultural operations. There are about 2 million farms across the United States. A farm is defined as a place where $1,000 or more of agricultural products are produced and sold annually, or normally would have been sold.
In 2021, when the USDA began collecting data on precision agriculture practices, the U.S. average was 25%; it rose to 27% this year. Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota topped the list, with each reporting use at 49% or higher. North Dakota reported the highest adoption at 57%.
Iowa ranks number one in corn and hog production while Illinois leads in soybeans. Kansas and North Dakota lead in wheat production.. Nebraska is a major cattle and grain state. South Dakota’s principal crop acres include corn, soybeans, hay, wheat, and sunflowers.
Yet, some notable states lag in adoption. For example, in Texas, where cattle and cotton are king, only 13% of farmers reported using precision agriculture practices, the same number reported in 2021. Farmers in high-producing corn and soybean states like Indiana and Minnesota reported 32% use. Forty percent of California farmers, who lead in fruit, vegetable, and milk production, say they use precision ag practices to manage their crops or livestock.
How farmers are using the internet
The report also gauged farmers use of the internet. A slowly growing number of farmers use the internet to conduct business (e.g., buy inputs or market products). In 2023, 32% of farms used the internet to purchase ag inputs, an increase of 3% from 2021. Marketing activities grew 2% from 2021 to 2023.
Today, 85% of farms report having an internet connection, up 3% from 2021. Farmers also noted they were more likely to own a smartphone (82%) than to have a desktop or laptop computer (69%).
Where are you on the adoption curve?
While Michigan may not rank as high as some states, Corey Farms is among the 36% incorporating precision farming practices into the operation. From tillage to planting to harvest, Ag Leader products touch every aspect of the Linden, Michigan farm.
“The way we do things today is much different than what we did 30 years ago,” says Denny Corey (pictured right), who farms with his son Sean. “Because of the technology we’ve adopted through the years, we are better managers and don’t put anything on our fields unless they need it.”
One of the first areas of the operation they tackled was planting. Years ago, Corey installed Ag Leader’s SureStop® row clutches on his Kinze 2600 planter. SureStop electric row clutches turn planter sections on/off row-by-row using low-maintenance, easy-to-install automatic row shutoffs.
“Investing in row clutches was a big jump for us, and they worked well in reducing overlap when planting,” Corey says. “Since then, we upgraded our planter to a Kinze 3600. We have SureDrive®, SureForce®, and DirectCommand® controllers on the planter.
In addition, they variable rate seed as well as fertilizer, which is all done through Ag Leader’s SMS™ software.
“We also invested in two InCommand 1200® displays, which we use pretty much year-round – from spring to fall. I like that they are easy to operate and seamlessly move from machine to machine.”
By adding remote support through AgFiniti®, Brian Pincik, Pincik’s Precision Ag Technology, can tap into the display if there’s a problem that can’t be solved over the phone. Their Ag Leader dealer for the past 10 years, not only does Pincik take the time to understand what their operation needs, but he also ensures the Ag Leader products they invest in are going to work on their older equipment, especially after the sale.
“When I work with farmers, I like to stress that I use the precision ag equipment on my farm, so I have a very good understanding of how it works and am able to provide top notch tech support,” Pincik says. “If I don’t feel it’s a good investment for my own farm, I’m not going to recommend it to others.”
It’s all about the farmer
“We’ve used Ag Leader products for years. It is a very responsive company who I believe really cares about the farmer,” Corey says. “And if I must call customer support with a question, nine times out of 10 I’m going to talk to someone who farms, which is huge to me.”
More recently, the father and son invested in RightSpot™ for their 2013 John Deere 4830 sprayer. RightSpot monitors and maintains the right droplet size prescribed for a product, so the right amount is applied while reducing risk of drift.
“Spraying has always been very stressful for me,” Corey says. “Like anything else we invest in, Sean and I sat down and talked through the benefits of RightSpot compared to the cost and how long it would take before we saw a return on our investment. It was clear RightSpot was a good fit for us. By putting the chemical exactly where it needs to be, the technology is reducing drift and eliminating overlap, which makes spraying a lot less stressful.”