Thursday, March 4, 2010
'Classic farmers' are in high tech gear
As the 2010 Commodity Classic gets underway in Anaheim, California, this week, one of the issues farmers fire up to talk about is the adoption of new technology—and in hearing them talk you wonder if we’re all strapped in tight enough for the changes occurring out on the land these days.
In discussions with about a dozen farmers from seven states and Ontario, Canada, you get the impression that the pace of change has about two gears these days—fast and faster.
Pretty much all these farmers are using auto-steer, for example. And almost everybody is planning to take some new tool to the field this spring.
In a recent poll here, more than two thirds of farmers said they were expanding their precision ag capabilities in 2010. Leading the way were autosteer and individual row or boom shutoff.
The new technology is not pegged to higher crop yields at this point. The payoff is coming mainly through increased efficiency, lower input costs, and in reduced fatigue. Several farmers here commented on the reduced stress of farming brought about by auto-steer. “At the end of the day, you feel like spending time with your family,” said one farmer.
Farmers on the vanguard of new technologies say it’s simply what they must do to compete. “I look at it as just a cost of doing business,” said Doug Martin, an Illinois grower.
If there’s a worm at the core of new technology on the precision ag front, it’s the perceived complexity of operating some of the new tools. With crop genetic traits, it’s the cost, and some deep-seated resentment in some cases, toward certain suppliers.
“User friendliness of precision ag technology is an issue,” said Mike Shuter, an Indiana farmer and leader in the corn industry. “But, I don’t see us backing off either.”
Shuter, for one, sees precision ag helping him manage the increasingly expensive inputs he must buy to compete. “We’re experimenting with cutting soybean seeding rates,” he said. “With this expensive seed, you have to make every seed count.”
Posted by John Walter at 9:41 AM