Adding value to spatially managed inputs by understanding site-specific yield response
Many mechanized crop producers and agribusinesses are fascinated with precision agriculture technology, but adoption has lagged behind the expectations. Among the reasons for slow adoption of precision agriculture technology is that initial users focused excessively on in-field benefits from variable-rate fertilizer application using regional average fertilizer recommendations. This article illustrates how greater use of site-specific crop response information can improve variable rate input application recommendations. Precision agriculture is spatial information technology applied to agriculture. The technologies include global position systems (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS), yield monitoring sensors, and computer controlled within-field variable rate application (VRA) equipment. Experimentation with these technologies is occurring everywhere there is large scale mechanized agriculture. Commercial use has been greatest in the US, where 43% of farm retailers offered VRA services in 2001. Except for certain high-value crops like sugar beet, farmer adoption ofVRA has been modest. The farm level profitability of VRA continues to be questionable for bulk commodity crops. The theoretical model and illustration presented here suggest that VRA fertilization has not yet reached its profitability potential. Most VRA field trials to date have relied upon existing state-wide or regional input rate recommendations. Unobserved soil characteristics can potentially interact with an input to make its effect on yield vary site-specifically within fields. Failure to use site-specific response functions for VRA applications may lead to a misallocation of inputs just as great as that which results from using uniform applications instead of VRA. Agricultural economists have a long history of estimating output response to input applications. Several have started to develop tools to estimate site-specific responses from yield monitor and other precision agriculture data. Li
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- Hurley, Terrance M. & Kilian, Bernard & Malzer, Gary L. & Dikici, Huseyin, 2001. "The Value Of Information For Variable Rate Nitrogen Applications: A Comparison Of Soil Test, Topographical, And Remote Sensing Information," 2001 Annual meeting, August 5-8, Chicago, IL 20726, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
- Gary Kachanoski, 1999. "Economic Feasibility of Variable-Rate Technology for Nitrogen on Corn," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 81(4), pages 914-927.
- Babcock, Bruce A. & Pautsch, Gregory R., 1998.
"Moving From Uniform To Variable Fertilizer Rates On Iowa Corn: Effects On Rates And Returns,"
Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics,
Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 23(02), December.
- Bruce A. Babcock & Gregory R. Pautsch, 1997. "Moving from Uniform to Variable Fertilizer Rates on Iowa Corn: Effects on Rates and Returns," Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) Publications 97-wp182, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University.
- Babcock, Bruce A. & Pautsch, Gregory R., 1998. "Moving from Uniform to Variable Fertilizer Rates on Iowa Corn: Effects on Rates and Returns," Staff General Research Papers Archive 1121, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
- Swinton, Scott M. & Liu, Yanyan & Miller, Neil R., 2002. "Is Yield Response Site-Specific? Revisiting Nitrogen Recommendations On Corn," 2002 Annual meeting, July 28-31, Long Beach, CA 19709, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
- English, Burton C. & Mahajanashetti, S.B. & Roberts, Roland K., 1999. "Economic And Environmental Benefits Of Variable Rate Application Of Nitrogen To Corn Fields: Role Of Variability And Weather," 1999 Annual meeting, August 8-11, Nashville, TN 21533, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
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