Evaluating the Cost of Production of Row Crops Using Precision Farming Technologies
A sustainable family farm enterprise must be able to adapt to the changing agricultural economy through adoption of the most cost-efficient uses of all resources, land, labor, machinery, fertilizers, pesticides and information. Today’s innovative research promotes the uses and benefits of new high technology tools to aid in farm management. These precision farming tools allow producers to collect large amounts of data, make computer aided decisions and vary the rate of inputs on modern farms. The notion is to manage small sections of fields for optimum yield according to crop and economic models, thereby producing higher yields and/or larger profits. However, precision farming practices originated and work well on the large fields of the Midwest, but still need to be proven economically viable under southern conditions.
Research by the University of Tennessee suggests that simple 2.5 acre grid soil sampling does not accurately reflect field conditions and does not yield positive returns. Farmers in this area need firsthand information on precision farming practices and the economic consequences of adopting some or all of the practices. In addition, small farmers need to understand that some of the precision farming practices can be adopted without personally investing in a lot of hardware and software.
This project will compare site specific management practices and traditional soil sampling and fertilization practices over a three-year period. Practices that will be evaluated and demonstrated to area producers include yield monitoring, soil sampling strategies, variable rate fertilizer applications and economic performance of these practices. The goal is to determine whether these practices can help area farmers achieve increased net profits and to determine which practices yield the highest returns.