Precision agriculture gets push amid downturn in farm economy

GPS satellites can guide tractors for more efficient farming.
GPS satellites can guide tractors for more efficient farming.
This year's crash in grain prices, combined with other pressures on farm income, could provide a boost to adoption rates of precision farming techniques such as GPS tracking, agriculture experts and farm equipment manufacturers say.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is promoting precision farming technologies to boost productivity and cut down on wasteful use of pesticides. A USDA precision farming incentive program has been encouraging more farmers to go high-tech.

Although the cost and reliability of the technology has improved, many farmers have shied away from it because of a lack of education about its benefits and the training and knowledge it requires.

"It's a learning curve, for sure, but it's where things are headed," said Andrew Burleson, a farmer near Charlotte, North Carolina, according to MarketWatch. "We have to produce more with less if we want to stay in business," he added.

The use of GPS technology allows farmers to map the boundaries of their fields to prevent overlapping in the process of plant and spraying. Farmers can use the advanced GPS systems to steer the tractors more efficiently, reducing overlap from a couple of feet to as little as four inches.

GPS tracking devices on farm equipment also help with security, allowing authorities to quickly locate tractors in the event of a theft.