Advanced technologies, like GPS and variable-rate application offer farmers the best opportunity for improving crop yields and growing profits, according to one veteran crop consultant.

In March, Ag Equipment Intelligence, along with the investment-banking firm of Morgan Joseph & Co., co-sponsored the annual Ag Day conference in New York.

Now in its third year, this conference is designed to give investment fund managers a first-hand look at the farm equipment business. This year’s meeting drew 65 managers representing 48 different investment funds, and featured growers from Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois, along with execs from the farm equipment industry. Here is one the key takeaways from this year’s conference.

'Best Ag Market in 35 Years'

Veteran crop consultant Joe Nester of Bryan, Ohio, says, “This is the most exciting time I’ve seen in agriculture in my 35 years in the business.” Nester and his staff oversee more than 300,000 acres of land with a typical client farming 4,000 acres.

Nester sees advanced technologies, like global positioning satellite (GPS) and variable-rate application, playing a key role in future farm productivity and crop yield gains as well as helping to solve environmental issues confronting American farmers.

He estimates GPS equipment is used on 10% of Midwest farm acres, but believes that between 50-60% of farmers in the region are getting ready to invest in GPS systems.

Nester cites one grower who uses variable-rate fertilization within 100 soil and fertility zones in a 320-acre field to evaluate soils, elevation, fertility and yield potential in a 320-acre field. This has boosted profits by $30,000 per year.

He also talked about how northwestern Ohio growers are receiving $40 per acre up to 100 acres in government funds over 3 years to improve water quality. EPA funding allows growers to invest in GPS technology to improve the quality of water flowing into Lake Erie through more accurate placement of phosphorus to avoid serious algae concerns.

“It’s hard for some folks to believe, but the GPS technology will do more than anything else to improve water quality in Lake Erie,” Nester says. “The yield monitor in the combine is probably the most productive tool to come out in the past 20 years.”