Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Little Tech with Your Corn, Soybeans?

Submitted by Willie Vogt, Editorial Director, Farm Progress

It takes a lot of work to feed the 7 billion people who inhabit our planet today. As we aim toward 9 billion by 2050 (or sooner), we have a lot of work ahead of us. Yet, I'm optimistic about the power of the American farmer to meet not only a domestic need for nutritious food consumers demand, but to have the product that the rest of the world needs for its diet.

Why so optimistic? Well, I've been covering farm technology for more than 25 years. In that time, I've seen the miracle merging of computer technology and farm equipment in ways I don't think we would have anticipated in the 1970s. The hands-free operation we find so common today was but an idea in someone's head back in the 1980s, yet today farmers are adding auto-steering tools and other devices to new and used equipment as fast as they can get them.

It's all about the "hardware" of agriculture: the steel and electronics you can touch and put to work every day. And that's changing fast, too. Beyond those auto-steering computers, you'll find computer-controlled diesel engines that sip less fuel and release fewer emissions than ever before, making them more productive on every acre of land we farm.

Then there's the "software" of agriculture: the top-quality genetics of the seed farmer's plant; the improved fertilizer technologies that keep needed nutrients where they belong through the growing season and enhanced crop protection products farmers rely on. Add in the productivity enhancements of biotechnology and improved agronomics, and farmers will have the ability to double corn yields by 2030. That's a stunning fact in 2012, when the average corn yield is about 145 bushels per acre.

Of course there's no sitting back and relaxing in celebration of a job well done. There's roll-up-your-sleeves work to be done as hungry mouths start making demands. During the Ag Day celebrations, we should keep one thing in mind: all that technology makes a difference, but it's still being deployed by the American farmer. Please accept this simple pat on the back.