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Variable Rate Technology Adoption Increasing

New data from USDA’s Economic Research Service shows variable rate technology adoption is on the rise. Farmers use variable rate technologies to control the amount of farm inputs—such as seed, fertilizer, and chemicals—applied as farm machinery moves across a field.

Data from USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey show that initial adoption in the late 1990s and early 2000s was sluggish, remaining below ten percent of planted acres for several field crops. However, adoption rates for corn and cotton have increased markedly over the last decade. The adoption rate for corn stood at 37.4 percent of planted acres in 2016, up from 11.5 percent in 2005. Cotton acreage showed a similar increase, rising from 5.4 percent in 2007 to 22.7 percent in 2019.

Recent adoption rates across other crops included 13.9 percent for sorghum in 2019, 18.8 percent of winter wheat planted acres in 2017, and 25.3 percent of soybean-planted acres in 2018.

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