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Agriculture in the 21st Century is high-tech
Dr. Victor Martin

The six to ten day outlook (June 2-6) indicates well above-normal temperatures and below normal precipitation for our area. Looking out eight to 14 days (June 4-10) indicates below normal precipitation and above normal temperatures. The drought monitor has indicated some improvement, especially in the more central parts of the state. Barton is still mostly in moderate drought with the eastern third abnormally dry. Remember this is as of last Tuesday. As producers wait for the wheat crop to progress, to bale the first cutting of alfalfa, and plant their summer row and feed crops, let’s take a look at agriculture in the 21st Century. It truly is part of the information and technology age.

There is no way for a 500 word article to be all-inclusive but rather to get everyone thinking about farming in 2020 and perhaps open people’s minds. First agriculture and the information, although information and technology really go hand in hand.

• Producers, whether crops or livestock, whether on their smartphone, iPad, laptop, or PC, have almost instant access to mountains of information. There are platforms to send photos of a diseased plant or insect and have it identified in minutes. It isn’t possible to describe that amount of information available to producers. The hardest part is knowing the appropriate site, what to ask or what information to have available, and applying it to a particular situation, knowing what to do.

• This information is available from private sources, commodity groups, and governmental agencies from agencies such as the KDA and K-State to the various USDA departments and agencies. Much, not all, is free to all. Good examples if you read this paper, are the articles published by the area ANR (Ag and Natural Resources) agents each Sunday. Most of the articles and information is available at, either as a press release or an extension publication. 

• While this ties directly into technology, the availability of yield monitors, GPS for determining location precisely, and a variety of sensors, allow a farmer to obtain detailed information on everything from yields across the field to soil physical and chemical properties. This leads to prescription or precision farmer allowing producers to varying inputs across a field to optimize inputs and yields. Another benefit is detailed records over time, not just for expenses, but to allow long-term planning and adjustment of cultural practices to optimize production practices and income.

There is way more on information, but what about technology?

• We tend to think of technology such as GPS and yield monitors here. Aside from yield mapping and variable rate application of product, what else does technology do? It increases efficiency, not only from an economic standpoint but in time management. Technology such as autosteer also saves wear and tear on operators, decreases fatigue and therefore increases safety. It allows for accurate monitoring of inputs and alerts producers to problems immediately.

• Something we don’t often think about is the equipment itself. Just like your vehicle, computers run machinery. This allows for increased fuel efficiency, decreased pollution, and all the variable rate technologies becoming more common.

This is way too brief but the point for those not paying attention is that agriculture is rapidly becoming as high tech as any sector of the economy with the need for highly trained, well-paid professionals.

Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.