Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » Columbia, Missouri » Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #353322

Research Project: Sustainable Intensification of Grain and Biomass Cropping Systems using a Landscape-Based GxExM Approach

Location: Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research

Title: A long-term precision agriculture system maintains profitability

item YOST, MATT - Utah State University
item Kitchen, Newell
item Sudduth, Kenneth - Ken
item Drummond, Scott
item MASSEY, RAYMOND - University Of Missouri

Submitted to: International Conference on Precision Agriculture Abstracts & Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/25/2018
Publication Date: 6/24/2018
Citation: Yost, M.A., Kitchen, N.R., Sudduth, K.A., Drummond, S.T., Massey, R.E. 2018. A long-term precision agriculture system maintains profitability. International Conference on Precision Agriculture, June 24-27, 2018, Montreal, Canada. Paper No. 4780.

Interpretive Summary: Information on long-term impacts of field-scale precision agriculture practices on grain crop profitability is needed, but few studies have been conducted to provide such information, due to the long-term and large-scale research approach required. To address this need, we studied profitability of 11 years of a precision agriculture system (PAS) implemented on a 36-ha Missouri field. Results were compared to the previous 11 years of production on the same field using conventional farming techniques. We found that PAS maintained profits in the majority (97%) of the field without government payments. Significant decreases in profit were only found in a field drainage channel where wet soils coupled with the no-till PAS system sometimes affected crop stand and disease pressure. Although profit did not increase with PAS on this field and over this time period, it was maintained while adding cover crops, no-tillage, and variable-rate fertilization -- techniques that would be expected to enhance environmental protection and restore degraded soils. This study provided evidence that precision agriculture can maintain profitability, important information for growers considering an investment in precision agriculture.

Technical Abstract: After two decades of availability of grain yield-mapping technology, long-term trends in field-scale profitability for precision agriculture (PA) systems and conservation practices can now be assessed. Field-scale profitability of a conventional or ‘business-as-usual’ system with an annual corn (Zea mays L.)-soybean (Glycine max [L.]) rotation and annual tillage was assessed for 11 years on a 36-ha field in central Missouri during 1993 to 2003. Following this, a ‘precision agriculture system’ (PAS) with conservation practices was implemented for the next 11 years to address production, profit, and environmental concerns. The PAS was dynamic and included no-till, cover crops, growing winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) instead of corn in a section of the field where corn was often not profitable, site-specific N for wheat and corn using canopy reflectance sensing, variable-rate or zonal P, K and lime using intensively grid-sampled data, and targeting of herbicides based on weed pressure. The objective of this research was to compare the profitability of the PAS system to the previous, conventional system. Results indicated that PAS maintained profits in the majority (97%) of the field without subsidies for cover crops or payments for enhanced environmental protection. Profit or net returns were only lower with PAS in the drainage channel where no-till sometimes hindered soybean stands and wet soils caused wheat disease. Although profit gains were not realized after 11 years of PA and conservation practices, results indicate this type of system can maintain profits. Furthermore, this information should help growers gain confidence that PA and conservation practices will be successful.