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‘High-tech farming is costly but worth it’

US: Modern farming technology is expensive but worth it. New technology can save money by improving efficiency and productivity — in other words, doing more with less, observes American farmers. With food prices rising this year, it is possible that farmers could earn a little more. According to the Associated Press, corn traded at more than USD 7 a bushel in April — more than double last summer’s USD 3.50 — and many traders say it could pass the record USD 7.65 set in 2008.

According to a report published in Salisbury Post, Jason Starnes, a Northern Rowan County farmer, plants crops using GPS-guided technology that updates him from missing or overlapping spots on the field. The GPS unit uses satellite signals to show his exact location, how far off he is from his designated path and how much of the field already has been covered. With a simple mechanical device, the system even steers the tractor automatically. Starnes deactivates it to turn the tractor and navigate through difficult areas.

Systems like this cost thousands of dollars, but Rowan County farmers who use them say they are worth it. “We’ve noticed some pretty good savings, and it prevents a lot of human error,” he said. “The investment you make in the equipment pays for itself fairly quick.”

Similarly other farmers use GPS to help spray herbicide or pesticide, and a similar method is used to apply fertilizer exactly where and how it is needed.

Farmers pay Southern States Cooperative to sample the soil at various spots on the farm and create maps of the soil’s chemistry and content. The company then loads the data on a GPS-equipped spreader truck, which automatically changes the fertilizer’s content and application rate as it spreads.

However, not all local farmers see the need to keep up with the latest technology. China Grove resident Frank Corriher said it doesn’t make financial sense to buy “fancy equipment” to tend his small amount of land.

Source: Salisbury Post