“There's been evolution in the farming industry… this is a challenge as much as an issue,” said William Birdsong, Wiregrass Research and Extension Center.
Farmers are meeting that challenge with improved technology.
Besides using GPS on row crops, many farmers are using other advanced methods like soil sampling, growing genetically - enhanced crops, automating livestock houses and electronically branding cattle
Ag experts say these developments are needed because the typical farmer is evolving.
“Although we have fewer farmers, the ones that we will have will be better educated, more efficient and more profitable,” said Birdsong. “The younger generation that's in farming today is more apt to embrace the technology: the GPS guided tractor, the grid soil sampling and yield monitors and identify the areas of the field to make more productive or to put less expenditures into.”
Soil sampling gives a farmer data about the field.
“This will show us where the ph is high and where the ph is low... the benefit is equalizing the field,” said JP Kelley, H&K Farms
It can reduce the amount of herbicide or fertilizer a farmer uses.
“The farmer certainly doesn’t want to adversely affect the environment,” said Birdsong.
Genetically enhanced crops can also give a farmer an extra fight against pests and weeds.
“They could interject a gene into the cotton plant called boll guard,” said Birdsong. “It reduces the number of sprays in the field and reduced the amount of insecticide that's being released into the environment.”
In livestock, better technology can make a farm more productive. Cattle can be genetically enhanced.
“Our farmers are going to need to be able to tag the cattle with a computer chip to identify the history of the animal,” said Birdsong. “It's coming of age where we're going to be identifying these animals so it moves on to the feed lot to they'll know what producer it came from, and if the cuts of meat that are coming from those cattle are high quality, they're going to want that producer.”
A lot of these high-tech farming methods do come at an initial cost.
It's not cheap to use soil sampling or genetically enhanced crops, but farmers say in the long run it can make their business profitable