Consider benefits, costs when adopting precision ag tech

Precision Ag Summit
Terry Griffin, standing, moderated a discussion of farm technology during the Precision Ag Summit Jan. 20-21 at the North Dakota Farmers Union Conference Center in Jamestown. Keith Norman / The Sun
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There are good reasons and bad reasons when it comes to adopting precision agriculture practices and tools on the farm, according to Terry Griffin, associate professor of cropping systems at Kansas State University.

Griffin was the keynote speaker at the 9th Annual Precision Ag Summit held at the North Dakota Farmers Union Conference Center in Jamestown on Jan. 20-21.

"The benefit-cost ratio," he told the summit attendees Monday. "Do the benefits outweigh the cost. The costs are easy to calculate. The benefits are tougher."

If there is a higher benefit than cost, it makes sense to adopt the technology, Griffin said. Some precision ag technology like autosteer tractors can reduce costs almost immediately by cutting down the overlap of seed and fertilizer in the field.

Griffin said the "fear of missing out" is one of the worst reasons to adopt new technology.


"Some farmers are feeling pressure to adopt technology," he said. "The fear of missing out should not impact the decision-making process."

Low farm commodity prices have also made it more difficult for some farmers to move into precision agriculture.

"The prices went down and people quit buying," Griffin said.

Specifically, in Kansas where he monitors agriculture trends, technology use has leveled off in the past three years.

There are also age groups that are more likely than others to adopt precision agriculture technology. Baby boomers, people who are born from 1946 through 1964, and Generation X, born 1965 through 1985, are the most likely to have adopted precision ag technology according to studies done in Kansas.

The "silent generation," people born prior to 1946, would be at least 74 years old at this time and were less likely to adopt new technology.

Millennials, people born since 1985, were also less likely to have adopted precision agriculture. Griffin said younger people were more familiar with technology but the size of their farming operations and financial condition of the farm may limit the opportunity to invest in technology.

Farms with multiple operators were more likely to adopt precision ag technology than single operator farms. Griffin said the multiple operator farms were usually larger and might have a mix of ages of operators.


Griffin said farmers considering investing in precision ag technology should make sure they have the skills, time and capacity to use the tools.

"Wait, rather than make a bad decision," he said.

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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