Nothing like the change of an input price to alter the payback equation for an equipment innovation. Take row-shutoff technology. It goes by a bunch of different names depending on the brand name; but after spending some time in the field with a few dealers and farmers, the interest is definitely there.
Rising seed prices and that continued hunt for higher efficiency, has a lot of growers opting to add the tech to their planters. Shutting off rows as you pull back over planted areas, or hit waterways, can save money on seed and improve yield (double-planted areas don't do as well for sure).
But when this kind of technology appeared on the radar with sprayers, farmer interest started to climb. It makes a lot of sense not to double-spray both for economic and environmental reasons. But for planters, the interest was so-so. Sort of a "when I get a new planter, I'll consider it." Then we went through the big equipment buying spree and those new planters went flying out of dealerships - okay they were towed, but you know a lot of them were towed out.
Late in 2009, we started hearing a lot of interest in the tech given the rising prices of the new-tech seed. Doing a little math, you know a $300 bag of seed will cover more acres if you don't double-plant on the end rows or in oddly shaped fields. Add in the efficiency of running this equipment and the interest for the tech rose.
With the advent of RTK networks that cut the price of the most precise guidance technology, these planters become even more efficient. The result? Dealers added the row-control tech to a lot of machines this spring. And that's a great opportunity for readers who are still looking it over. Chances are there's a neighbor or two using the tool for 2010 and frankly there's not better insight into how something works than talking to someone who put it to work in their fields.
When the dust settles from this planting season, a little networking with growers who used the tech in 2010 can guide your decisions for 2011. And if it pencils out you can consider it for next year.