Bruce Erickson, currently agronomic education manager with the American Society of Agronomy, has been heading up survey development and data compilation for the 16th Retail Precision Adoption Survey. He and the team have noted some interesting trends in all technologies, including variable rate application and global positioning.
A step farther back, Erickson notes a continuation of what many precision practitioners and innovatiors have found: a deepening divergence between automating technology that builds efficiency and information collection technology that gathers and manages data and helps turn it into knowledge.
“Technologies that do not depend on site specific information have really been surging ahead,” says Erickson, “such as sprayer boom controls. Those are the ones that seem to be advancing more quickly in the adoption than technologies that are dependent on information about the characteristics of a field. If what you’re using requires something measured from the field such as soil texture or remote sensing, electrical conductivity or greenness sensors, the technology has been slow to catch on.
Progress is being made and built upon the success of early visions like HighQ, and pioneers like Dan Frieberg at Precision Partners, but growing is slow. Part of the reason is that in order to take accurate measurements and profit from a service, you need to ensure what you do produces a positive crop response, he says. “Unraveling the mystery of crops and how they respond to all this things is extremely complicated – more complex than any of us would have imagined. Why does a plant do what it does under the myriad variables – water, genetics, insects, diseases, soil, and 100 other things. It’s difficult to unravel.
“On the other hand, when the sprayer shuts off at the turn row and we save 5% of our investment that creates broad interest.”