AgDM newsletter article, October 1998

Information technology on Iowa farms

Paul LasleyBy Paul Lasley, extension sociologist, 515/2940937, plasley@iastate.edu

The Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll is an annual survey of farmers by Iowa State Uiversity to address major farm and rural issues.  Part of the 1998 survey focused on information technology of Iowa farms. 

In mid-February, questionnaires were mailed to a statewide random sample of 3,802 Iowa farm operators.  Usable replies were received from 2,312 operators yielding a response rate of 61 percent.

As farming has become more dependent on information, farm households have adopted new communication technologies to communicate with the outside world.  Table 1 shows the proportion of Iowa farm households with various communication technologies.

Table 1. Information technology on Iowa farms

Technology

Yes

No

Touch tone phone

93%

7%

VCR player

91

9

Answering machine

69

31

Cellular phone

52

48

Personal computer

49

51

Printer

47

53

CD-ROM Player

39

61

Rotary dial phone

35

65

Satellite television dish

32

68

Modem or e-mail capacity

29

71

Internet/web access

22

78

Cable television

17

83

Facsimile (fax) machine

16

84

Yield monitor on harvesting   equipment

13

87

Digital television disk

12

88

Global position system (GPS)

6

94

Pager

5

95

Precision farming

For this survey, precision or site-specific farming was defined as a way of looking at farms, fields, or specific areas within fields through the use of information management systems.  About three-fourths of the respondents were either somewhat or very familiar with precision farming; however, their personal level of interest was low.  Nearly four out of ten indicated they were not interested in precision farming, which is reflected in the three-quarters that expressed no plans to adopt this technology.

Familiarity

Percent

Not familiar

26

Somewhat familiar

58

Very familiar

16

 

 

Personal Interest

Percent

Not interested

38

Somewhat interested

51

Very interested

11

 

 

Use or Intention to Use

Percent

Already using

8

Plan to adopt in next 5 years

16

No plans to adopt

74

Factors related to adoption of precision farming

Producers were asked to indicate the importance of the following factors in their decision to adopt precision farming methods.  Economic considerations appear to be dominant in adoption of precision farming.  While higher profits were judged as the number one reason why producers are interested in precision farming, increased yields, better nutrient management, and reducing use of pesticides are strongly related to higher profits.

Table 2. Opinions about factors related to adoption of precision farming

 
Level of Importance
 
Low
Medium
High

Higher profits

8%

25%

67%

Increased yields

7

33

59

Better nutrient management

7

41

52

Reduce use of pesticides

12

42

46

Less environmental damage (better stewardship)

14

45

41

Being on the cutting edge of new technology

28

46

26

Better timelines

28

54

18

Recognition from neighbors and friends

58

27

15

 

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