A time or two in their careers, John Fulton and other members of the Alabama Precision Agriculture team may have wondered if their upbeat message was falling on deaf ears.

Precision farming practices would reap producers big savings, if only farmers would give it time. Everything associated with their training and research convinced them of that.

Some farmers did give it time — several, in fact, including Hillsborough, Ala., farmer Don Glenn, helped pioneer precision farming practices.

Yet, a few continued to express doubts.

Now, after a decade, team members feel a measure of vindication. Precision farming does save.

How much? Team members estimate the practices are saving Alabama producers an estimated $10 million annually — and precisely in the ways they expected it would: by improved accuracy, namely steering them clear of the over-applicaton of inputs such as seed, pesticides and nutrients.

"Granted, these savings vary according to management practices, type of farming operation and other factors, but the bottom line is that guidance systems and automatic section controls have been able to reduce over-application of inputs," says Fulton, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System precision farming specialist and Auburn University associate professor of biosystems engineering.

Yet, it's not only about avoiding over-application, Fulton says.

He says these technologies have equipped producers with something equally valuable — a considerably more refined understanding of their operation's potential and limitations, which has enabled them to improve less productive areas and, in some cases, to take the least productive areas out of production.

In fact, that is one of the lessons associated with precision farming that is revealed over years rather than days or weeks using this technology and approach, he says.

"We have testimonials from producers speaking about that very thing," Fulton says. "There were unproductive areas within fields where fertility was low and it took some time for those site-specific management practices, such as variable-rate applications of nutrients, to pay off."