Crops News

Precision agriculture improves environmental stewardship


The Association of Equipment Manufacturers, in partnership with the American Soybean Association, CropLife America, and the National Corn Growers Association, released a study quantifying how widely available precision agriculture technology improves environmental stewardship while providing economic return for farmers.

Precision agriculture leverages technologies to enhance sustainability through more efficient use of critical inputs, such as land, water, fuel, fertilizer, and pesticides. Farmers who use precision agriculture equipment use less to grow more. The study highlights how policies and technological advancements can help farmers increase these outcomes.

“We are living in a new age of agriculture, and today’s precision technology on equipment can have an enormous positive impact on farmers and the environment,” said Curt Blades, Senior Vice President of Agriculture at the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. 

Environmental Benefits

The study explores five key environmental benefits achieved through precision agriculture technology adoption, including:

  • Yield benefit through increased efficiency
  • Fertilizer reduction by more precise placement
  • Pesticide reduction by more accurate application
  • Fuel savings due to less overlap and better monitoring
  • Water savings through more accurate sensing of needs

“Over the past 18 years, the growth in corn and soybean yields, for example, has coincided with the widespread adoption of precision agriculture technologies,” said John Linder, National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President. “As precision agriculture technologies become more widely adopted, there is the potential for significant upward movement in yields and savings.”

Part of Climate Answer

“The reductions in greenhouse gases this study illustrates shows modern agriculture is part of the climate solution,” said Kellie Bray, CropLife America (CLA) Chief of Staff. “Fuel savings alone due to precision ag tools is the yearly equivalent of taking nearly 200,000 cars off the road, all while preventing an area equal to 4.5 Yellowstone National Parks from being added to production because of yield increases.”

Study Highlights

As precision agriculture equipment and technologies are more widely adopted it will lead to significant increases in yields and further input savings: Significant increases in yields and further input savings can be reached as precision agriculture technologies become more widely adopted:

  • Productivity has increased an estimated 4% and has the potential to further increase 6 percent with broader adoption.
  • Precision agriculture has improved fertilizer placement efficiency by an estimated 7 percent and has the potential to further improve an additional 14 percent.
  • Herbicide use has been reduced by an estimated 9% and has the potential to further decrease 15 percent at full adoption.
  • Fossil fuel use has decreased an estimated 6 percent with the potential to further decrease 16 percent.
  • Water use has decreased an estimated 4 percent because of current precision agriculture adoption with the potential to further decrease 21 percent at full adoption.

Overcoming Barriers

“Soybean growers know from experience that precision agriculture contributes to both short-term and, importantly, long-term yield, environmental, and economic benefits, and this study helps quantify that progress,” says Kevin Scott, South Dakota soy grower and American Soybean Association (ASA) president. “But if we want to get to full adoption of the technology — and realize the immense industry-wide gains in yield and input savings — we still have a lot of work ahead of us.”

AEM, ASA, CLA, and NCGA are working together to advance technologies and practices that will bring pledge to work together on ideas that will bring the potential the study highlights to fruition:

  • Promote policies that incentivize innovations in agricultural production
  • Improve the infrastructure that makes precision agriculture possible, including wireless broadband over croplands and rangelands
  • Grow farm income so producers have capital to invest in their operations
  • Increase consumer communication about the environmental benefits of precision agriculture
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