Faster payoffs have accelerated the adoption of electronic tools like lightbars, yield monitors and automatic steering.
“In 1999, about 5 percent of agricultural custom applicators with ground-based equipment used lightbars. In the Midwest this year, about 75 percent will use them. This is enormously rapid adoption, and one of the key reasons was a very quick payoff,” says Jess Lowenberg-DeBoer, director of the Purdue University Site-Specific Management Center.
“For the kinds of electronic technology that we see being used for site-specific management, we usually think of a 3-year lifespan,” he says. “This comes from the computer world. A 3-year old computer is almost worthless, so you have to figure out a way to make that computer pay off in 3 years. If you can do that, then it’s probably a good investment. If you can use it longer than that it or can sell it for something at the end of 3 years, that’s a bonus.”
Site specific technology does not come cheap. Lightbars, which help guide equipment in straight rows without skip or overlap, usually run between $2,000 and $4,000. Yield monitors range from $6,000 to $10,000. A GPS autoguidance system can cost as much as $60,000.
“While the faster the payoff, the better off you are buying this technology, there are other issues to also keep in mind when considering site-specific purchases,” says Lowenberg-De-Boer.
Will it solve other problems?
Auto guidance can postpone retirement of older farmers with physical limitations, for example.
Is it compatible with other equipment?