Extension Agent: Technology transforms modern farming

By Peter J. McGuill
Nov. 12, 2013 at 5:12 a.m.

The basic principles of agricultural production have remained relatively unchanged since the first plow was used to cultivate the earth. As farmers wrap up the 2013 crop year and prepare for the next, those same tasks of plowing, fertilizing and destroying the old crop are being accomplished just as they have for centuries. A closer look at modern production agriculture, however, will yield a vastly different image of farming than that of generations past.

Just as technology has changed the way in which each of us communicate, source information, shop for goods and services and conduct business, a similar transition has occurred on many farms across the country.

The utilization of GPS, guided steering, computer-generated reports based on aerial imagery and yield mapping are only a sampling of the technology that today's growers are using to maximize their production capacity while minimizing their production costs.

As American society has moved further from our agricultural roots, the growing belief is that farmers and ranchers have failed to keep up with the times and have fallen behind in regard to technology.

While this may be the case for a minority of the farming community, it is important to realize that most of today's successful agricultural producers are as connected or more connected with modern technology than many professionals in corporate settings.

The technology that is now available and commonly used by farmers has allowed them to multitask at a level that has never been seen before.

It is common in modern technology for a farmer to check the market price of corn, talk on the phone with a cotton seed salesman, change the seeding rate of the planter that he or she is pulling behind the tractor and plant rows straighter than an arrow - doing this all from the seat of the tractor and still have both hands free to flip through the latest farming publication while moving at a steady pace through the field.

The next time you drive through farming areas, take a close look at the production practices and the efforts that modern producers are making to produce food and fiber for the world in the most economical and environmentally efficient manner possible.

The future of technology in agriculture is here today. As the number of farmers continues to decline, I would anticipate the adoption of these technologies and the development of more technology to continue to increase.

Peter J. McGuill is the Victoria County extension agent - ag and natural resources. Contact him at 361-575-4581 or pjmcguill@ag.tamu.edu.



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