2020 Precision Ag U.S. Dealership Survey: Moving the Needle on Decision Agriculture

2020’s Precision Agriculture Dealership Survey, like 2019’s, showed further steps toward a future where crop management decisions will be guided more and more by data collected from fields, write Bruce Erickson and James Lowenberg-DeBoer at CropLife.

The CropLife/Purdue Precision Survey is the longest-running continuous survey of precision farming adoption. Information gathering and analysis services such as grid/zone soil sampling, UAV imaging and yield map analysis all showed steps up compared to 2019’s results, and these were all substantially up compared to 2017 and 2015. Sensor networks showed an uptick – the start of IoT, or Internet of Things.

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There also were accompanying and even greater increases in all variable-rate services – for fertilizers, lime, prescriptions for variable seeding. Even variable-rate pesticides are up, though that remains relatively small. Pooled data, especially for nutrient management and hybrid/variety placement, continues to guide decisions.

After a decade where approximately half of dealers were offering grid and zone soil sampling, this increased to 67% of dealers offering in 2015, to 82% in 2017, 90% in 2019, and now at 92%.  Dealers offering satellite imagery, a possible foundation for creating management zones or guiding site-specific decisions, increased from 48% in 2015 to 59% in 2017, 70% last year, and leveling out at 69% in 2020.

It should be noted that the data represents the percent of dealers offering these services, not the percent of acres where these services were applied. The 2023 numbers are what dealers anticipate they will offer in three years, and all are very optimistic. Among dealers who do not currently offer, the largest increases expected are for adding UAV/drone imagery and electronic records/mapping for crop traceability.

The survey was administered during the initial upswing of the pandemic in March and April, so while there may have been reason for dealers to express some pessimism, it didn’t overwhelm their view of the future.

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