The tools today’s American farmers use would be unrecognizable to most of the farmers throughout history.
Advances in technology have made farming safer, better for the environment and much more productive. In 1960, each U.S. farmer raised enough to feed 26 people. Today, every farmer feeds an average of 155 people (USDA). What’s changed?
#1 - Big iron
In the late 1950s, farmers could buy a new four- or six-row planter. Today, they can choose from 24, 36 or even 48 rows. Combines have grown in size and complexity, as well. Farm equipment improvements are geared toward increasing efficiency and productivity.
#2 - Precision ag
Precision technology gives farmers the tools to farm with greater accuracy, take better care of the environment and reduce energy consumption.
Variable-rate technology, which is possible with precision ag, allows farmers to be extremely precise, reducing inputs dramatically. For example, instead of applying fertilizer to an entire field, farmers can inject fertilizer exactly where it’s needed.
Data collection, another facet of precision ag, helps growers save time and money and improve techniques from one season to the next.
#3 - Applied science
Through soil testing, farmers can add the specific micronutrients needed—in the specific areas needed—for optimum performance.
#4 - Seed technology
The ancient science of plant breeding is accelerated today, with new hybrids and varieties featuring resistance to drought and insects, for example, or performance in certain types of soil. The fact that West River farmers are able to profitably grow corn is because of such technologies.
#5 - Drones
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are helping farmers better monitor crops and livestock.
#6 - Ethanol and DDGS
Since there’s plenty of corn to go around, due to a series of record-breaking growing seasons, a certain percentage goes to create ethanol, a clean-burning alternative fuel. The manufacturing process creates a by-product called dried distillers grain with solubles, or DDGS, which is high in protein, and makes excellent livestock feed.