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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Columbia, Missouri » Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #358967

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 sustains grain profitability

Author
item Yost, M - Utah State University
item Kitchen, Newell
item Sudduth, Kenneth - Ken
item Massey, R - University Of Missouri
item Sadler, Edward - John
item Drummond, Scott
item Volkmann, Matthew - Matt

Submitted to: Precision Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/12/2019
Publication Date: 3/18/2019
Citation: Yost, M.A., Kitchen, N.R., Sudduth, K.A., Massey, R.E., Sadler, E.J., Drummond, S.T., Volkmann, M.R. 2019. A long-term precision agriculture system sustains grain profitability. Precision Agriculture. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11119-019-09649-7.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11119-019-09649-7

Interpretive Summary: Targeting management practices and inputs with precision agriculture has high potential to meet some of the grand challenges of sustainability in the coming century, including simultaneously improving crop profitability and reducing environmental impacts. Although the potential is high, few studies have documented long-term effects of precision agriculture on crop production profitability. To better understand these impacts, a 36-ha field in central Missouri was monitored for over a decade as both a conventional (1993-2003) and a precision agriculture system (PAS) (2004-2014). Conventional management was annual rotations of corn and soybean, annual tillage, and uniform chemical inputs. Key aspects of the PAS were the addition of no-tillage, cover crops, winter wheat instead of corn on areas with shallow topsoil and low corn profitability, and variable-rate fertilizer (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and lime) applications. Results indicated that PAS sustained profits in the majority (97%) of the field without subsidies for cover crops or payments for enhanced environmental protection. Profit was only lower with PAS in a 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 using the PAS and conservation practices, this system sustained profits. These results should help growers gain confidence that PA and conservation practices will be successful.

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 multifaceted and temporally dynamic; it 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. Following a recent evaluation of differences in yield and yield variability, this research compared profitability of the two systems. Results indicated that PAS sustained profits in the majority (97%) of the field without subsidies for cover crops or payments for enhanced environmental protection. Profit was only lower with PAS in a 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, this system sustained profits. These results should help growers gain confidence that PA and conservation practices will be successful.