United States agricultural retailers doubled their use of pooled data since 2017, according to the precision dealer survey recently published by Purdue University.
“For instance, with nitrogen back in 2017 about 40 percent of dealers said that there was some influence or major influence on a nitrogen decision. In 2021, 86 percent of dealers said that data provided some influence or a major influence on their nitrogen decisions,” said Bruce Erickson of Purdue University who led the study.
“I have similar parallel data for phosphorus, potassium, hybrids, plant rates, variable seeding rates, irrigation, and for the most part everything has doubled.”
He said the survey illustrates that management decisions on farms are increasingly made with the information collected on farms, as opposed to information gathered from seed dealers and university or extension research.
“More and more they’re looking at what’s happening on their farms and making decisions based on that data, which they really weren’t capable of collecting all that data in years past like they can today,” Erickson said.
“It’s a pretty major sea change.”
For the survey, 225 American ag retailers answered questions on the technology used in their business, precisions products and services offered to customers, retailer’s estimation of farmer use of precision products, as well as profitability and constraints to adoption of precision ag technologies.
Variable rate applications of seed and fertilizer are commonly offered by retailers, with almost 90 percent of residents offering these services, however only 25 percent respondents offer variable rate pesticide applications.
Erickson said there are a few reasons variable rate pesticide applications are lagging.
“It’s a lot harder to characterize a weed or a disease or an insect in a part of a field versus, you know doing something like grid soil sampling and you can get a test result and then that’s used to determine how much fertilizer to put on in various parts of the field,” Erickson said.
“There’s also not a lot of tolerance for escapes, and so farmers would rather just treat the whole field at a high rate.”
Survey respondents said they believe there would be a doubling of precision pest management applications they offer within three years.
However, Erickson said previous surveys received similar results but the level of precision pest management services did not end up increasing significantly.
“For the last three surveys it’s been the same story. And so if their prediction was right, we should be at 50 percent now, but we’re not,” Erickson said.
The survey found dealers see a big promise for UAVs in the future, both for data gathering and for applications.
In 2021, 14 percent of dealers offer a service that uses a drone to apply crop inputs, but by 2024 29 percent of respondents expect to offer this service.
“We’re seeing in the future that dealers are really interested in using UAVs not only for scouting fields and taking imagery, but also to apply fungicides, insecticides and herbicides,” Erickson said.
By 2024, 16 percent of dealers expect to offer a robotic crop scouting service, while 13 percent of survey respondents plan to offer robotic weeding.