Cultivation/Production, Equipment/Technology, Most viewed stories, News June 2024, North America, Smart Farming

Precision agriculture’s slow revolution: The road to farming innovation

Despite the decades-old promise of revolutionizing farming with precision agriculture, the widespread adoption of its advanced technologies remains sluggish, according to Eric Schmid of Harvest Public Media.

Pablo Sobron, founder of Impossible Sensing, reflects on the transition from using these technologies in Martian soil analysis to enhancing Earth’s agricultural practices. While tractors and planters have evolved to autonomously navigate and optimize seed and fertilizer distribution using GPS, the crucial development of sensors for detailed soil and plant analysis lags behind.

But however promising new precision tools, like Sobron’s laser sensor or geospatial data from drones or satellites, are, it’ll likely take years for them to be adopted on thousands, let alone millions of farming acres.

New agricultural technology can help farmers grow more food with less fertilizer and chemical inputs, but it won’t fully deliver the cost and environmental benefits until scaled across the millions of acres.

The U.S. government, recognizing the potential for reducing excessive fertilizer use that contributes to environmental pollution, is investing in research to refine these technologies. However, farmers like Bill Leigh express caution, emphasizing the financial risks associated with rapidly adopting unproven technologies.

“Experimentation is a risk,” said Bill Leigh, who farms about 2,200 acres of corn and soybeans with his brother in Marshall County, Illinois.

Since he started in the early 1980s, Leigh said he has introduced more precision tools to his arsenal of equipment, which have helped him more efficiently plant seeds or apply fertilizer, herbicides and fungicides. But this change has been gradual, he explained.

This cautious approach underscores the broader challenge: aligning technological advancements with practical, profitable farming practices.

Source: Harvest Public Media. Read the full story here and listen to an audio version
Image: Impossible Sensing founder Pablo Sobron stands next to a single disk of a John Deere planter in his laboratory in St. Louis. The company sent him the equipment last year with the task of figuring out how to mount one of his soil sensors to the back of it. Credit Eric Schmid / Harvest Public Media

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