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Good data pay dividends

It stands to reason that the more data you collect about a farm property the more that property will be worth. How much more? In some cases 20 to 30% more.

Take for example two 80-acre farms located 1 1/2 miles apart in Calhoon County, IA. Both were sold at auction on December 15, 1999, within half an hour of each other at the same location. “Both farms were strong 80s with similar production capabilities as evidenced by their similar corn suitability ratings,” says Gary Anderson, Farmers National Company. “The farm I managed had a CSR value of 80.4. The other farm had a CSR of 81.” Yet the farm Anderson managed sold for $700 more per acre than the other farm. The difference? Records. The farm that sold for more had 12-year yield history and fertility records. It sold for $2,640/acre. The other farm had limited historical information and sold for only $1,940/acre.

Clearly, good records are valuable to landowners as well as farm operators. That's why some farm operators and their landlords are discussing ways of sharing precision farming information and costs. In the example above, the records were not from precision farming, but one could expect the same or greater impact from geo-referenced field records.

Sharing the expense and rewards. Landowner Ron Farrell, Farrell Growth Group, has offered to pay a percentage of the costs of precision farming based on the percentage of acreage his land represents in the total amount of acreage of his tenants, Dale and Tony Bodholdt. “Having this information is important to me. I want the ability to determine which agronomic practices are influencing yields,” says Farrell, whose company is involved in contracting production of value-added grain. “Precision farming will allow us to maximize the productive capability of the ground.”

He notes that, because he leases his land on a 50-50 crop share lease, he will benefit immediately from higher yields and any quality premiums earned. “But even landowners who cash lease might want to consider sharing in precision farming costs because those records would be of value when it's time to sell the property,” he says. “There are disadvantages in cash renting land and not knowing the production and fertility records for your farm.”

Lloyd Curry, Dawson, IL, a retired engineer and farmland owner, is interested in using precision farming information to evaluate tiling and nutrient needs. He is participating in the use of the precision farming information collected by his farm operator Wade Mateer. Mateer recently purchased a Precision Farming 3000 yield monitor with Trimble GPS from a local input supplier, Brandt Consolidated, for $7,300 with payments spread over three years. Mateer rents from Curry on a 50-50 crop share lease. Curry pays for his share of grid soil testing costs and other related precision farming costs. He regularly attends Brandt Consolidated's precision farming meetings with Mateer.

“Mr. Curry is interested in using all the tools available to be more productive,” Mateer says. “I appreciate having a landlord who takes a strong interest in the farm. This is a win-win situation.”

A competitive edge. Chip Donahue, sales and marketing manager for Brandt Consolidated, explains, “Many operators willingly share their precision farming data with their landlords because it positions them as better managers and gives them a competitive advantage in the farmland rental market. It also ties the grower and the landowner closer together so there's less chance of turning the farm over to someone else because the grower owns that information.”

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