A study, Farm Profits and Adoption of Precision Agriculture, finds that precision agriculture adoption rates vary significantly, with larger farms more likely to adopt the technology.
The study was conducted by USDA’s Economic Research Service using data from U.S. field crop production between 1996 and 2013.
What did the study find?
1. Yield monitors that produce data for GPS-based mapping are the most widely used technology, used on about half of all corn and soybeans farms.
2. Guidance or auto-steer systems are used on about a third of corn and soybean farms.
3. GPS-based yield mapping is used on about a quarter of corn and soybean farms.
4. Soil mapping using GPS coordinates and VRT are used on 16% to 26% of corn and soybean farms.
5. Corn farms that have more than 2,900 acres have the greatest adoption of precision agriculture technology. The majority of these farms use mapping – 70% to 80% - and guidance systems – 80%. Variable-rate technology is used by 30% to 40% of farms with more than 2,900 acres of corn.
6. Yield mapping is used on about 40% of U.S. corn and soybean acres, GPS soil maps are used on about 30%, guidance is used on more than 50% and VRT on 28% to 34%.
7. Hired labor costs are higher on large farms that have adopted precision mapping and guidance.
8. Custom service expenses are higher with mapping and guidance on both large and small corn farms.
9. A bigger stock of machinery on corn farms has a negative effect on variable rate technology adoption, possibly because of higher overhead costs and less flexibility in taking on new capital outlays.
10. GPS mapping shows the largest positive estimated impact among precision agriculture technologies, with an increase in operating profit of almost 3% on corn farms. The impact of mapping on net returns is almost 2%.
11. Guidance systems raise operating profit on corn farms by an estimated 2.5% and net returns by 1.5%.
12. Corn and soybeans have higher shares of acreage using yield mapping than other crops.
Source: USDA Economic Research Service