COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The adoption rate of precision agriculture by Ohio farmers over the past several years has been growing, and that trend is expected to continue as prices fall, availability of equipment increases and farmers grow more comfortable with the use of the technology.



Marv Batte, an Ohio State University agricultural economist with the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, is surveying 2,500 Ohio farmers and their outlook on the adoption and use of precision agriculture technology and its components -- equipment ranging from yield monitors to variable rate applicators to auto-steer guidance systems.



The survey is a follow-up to 1999 and 2003 surveys, each of which revealed that the adoption rate of precision agriculture among Ohio farmers is still on the rise.



"In the 2003 survey, we looked at the number of commercial farmers (those with sales of $50,000 or more) who adopted at least one precision agriculture piece of equipment, and that number was at 33 percent," said Batte, who also holds a research appointment with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. "This time around, we expect that number to be even larger."



Batte to present findings at conservation tillage conference



Batte will present partial findings of the survey at Ohio State University Extension's Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference in Ada, Ohio. The event will be held Feb. 22-23 at the MacIntosh Center at Ohio Northern University. The event is designed to educate growers, crop advisers, consultants and others in the agriculture industry on a wide variety of conservation tillage technology, production and management practices.



Batte speculates that declining prices and ease in use, coupled with a direct on-farm benefit, are driving more farmers to adopt precision agriculture technology.



"Larger farms lead the way in use and adoption of precision agriculture. For example, in 2003, the largest commercial farmers were ten times more likely to adopt a yield monitor for crop production than farmers in the $40,000-$100,000 sales class, and about twice as likely to use variable rate application of fertilizers," said Bate.



But the use of precision agriculture isn't just limited to crop producers.



"Some of the leading livestock producers are using variable rate applicators to measure out and apply manure," said Batte.



One of the things Batte expects to find in the new survey is the adoption of more guidance systems, such as auto-steer and RTK (real-time kinetic).



"In the 2003 survey, farmers responded that the benefits of the technology exceeded the costs. During the four years between the 1999 and 2003 surveys, guidance systems were the fastest growing technology of all precision agriculture components," he said.



Some technologies that farmers have not embraced include variable rate seeding, variable rate application of pesticides and GPS or sensor-directed spot spraying of pesticides and herbicides. The most recent survey should reveal if lack of interest in those technologies is continuing.



The Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference attracts upwards of 650 participants annually from Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Over 60 presenters from seven universities and additional agricultural industries and organizations will be on hand to provide field crop information on insects and diseases, ag technology, nutrient management, soil and water, conservation tillage, and precision farming.



For more information on the Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference, or to register, log on to http://ctc.osu.edu, or call the Allen County Soil and Water Conservation District at (419) 223-0040, then press 3.



SOURCE: News release from the Communications and Technology unit of Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.