CoBank report examines precision agriculture

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CoBank's Knowledge Exchange Division released a new report on precision agriculture and its impact on rural America, including farmer-owned cooperatives.

In the report, titled "Precision Agriculture - Technology Alchemy," CoBank economist Luke Brummel notes that while precision agriculture has been around for years, the recent rise in crop revenues, coupled with new technology, has accelerated growers' interest in utilizing these products and practices. That interest has prompted a growing number of farm cooperatives to create their own precision agriculture programs in order to better serve farmers.

"The goal of the cooperatives is to help their customers interpret the mountains of data that come in through precision agriculture and then formulate individual crop plans to optimize yields and productions," Brummel said. "And as commodity prices drop, many growers will be looking to sharpen their management skills and become more efficient in order to preserve their margins."

Precision agriculture, essentially, is the concept of using the proper combination of crop inputs, such as seeds, fertilizers and chemicals, along with the right technology and best application rates to optimize crop yields.

It continues to grow in importance in rural America and promises to shape the future of crop production, especially as growers strive to become more efficient and bolster their yields.

"Many cooperatives are experiencing rapid growth in customers' demand for precision ag services, with their members moving up from the barebones minimum to more advanced programs," said Leonard Sahling, director of CoBank's Knowledge Exchange Division, which issued the report.

"Cooperatives are using precision ag to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace and reaffirm their status as trusted advisors to their farmer owners," said Sahling.

The report also addresses some of the key challenges that precision agriculture poses for producers and services providers. High on the list of challenges, for example, are those dealing with such issues as data ownership, collection, aggregations, validity, and consistency.

CoBank's Knowledge Exchange Division is a knowledge-sharing practice that provides strategic insights regarding the key industries served by CoBank. Knowledge Exchange draws upon the internal expertise of CoBank, deep knowledge within the Farm Credit System and boots-on-the-ground intelligence from customers and other stakeholders to enhance the collective understanding of emerging business opportunities and risks.

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