Are the Americans the best farmers?
The LAMMA show happened last week, and is focused on new tech for farming, and some of the older stuff, and I remember, back in the Nineties, seeing devices that were aiming pesticides at individual plants in a field. GPS isn't quite precise enough on it's own, look up "differential GPS", but a combine harvester with a yield meter could record just where the good and bad patches were in a field. Back then, with that sort of detailed info, it wasn't always certain what the fix was for the bad patches, it need some old-fashioned farming knowledge to get the "why".
John Deere produced a magazine called "The Furrow", and cousins in the USA sent my father a subscription. They were just catching on to stuff we had been doing in Europe for years. and average yoelds of crops such as wheat are still much lower in the USA/ You might wonder why the Americans still use bushels instead of the tonnes the rest of the world uses.
Times have changed, but US farming still looks a bit reckless. It came from the EU, but we had regulations on applying pesticides and fertiliser, things that work out as saving money, even though the overt purpose was to stop them getting into water supplies. I have heard about nitrates getting into American rivers and lakes: they cost money, and the protection rules British farmers have to follow to avert that mean they they're not throwing money away. Precision farming is part of that.
It's the same for pesticides. America allows pesticides that are banned in Europe, chemicals that, here, needed special protective clothing to use. and there is all sorts of detail about the droplet sizes of the spray I had to pay attention to. Also the wind. Yet I see American reports of really bad spray drift, suggesting the chemicals never reach the crop. More money wasted.
The trouble was that the politicians would say things such as "This only puts an extra 1% on the costs" and didn't seem to know the difference between the net and the gross. They haven't changed. It's possible that the politics of farming is dominated by land ownership, and land speculation, soaking up subsidies, rather than the problems of growing a crop.
It's still hard to beat a skilled man on a tractor, but when you can't afford more than one man per thousand acres a robot looks tempting. Back in my distant youth, even with tractors, you needed over 10 men per thousand acres. My father was, in his youth, ploughing with horses.
A lot of this stuff depends on imports. It's a long list. John Deere is an American company, though they have factories in Europe. We import fertiliser, pesticides, and fuel for tractors. We still have some British companies, but for many things it's one source for all of Europe. And it's just pot luck whether that source is in Britain or not.
The paperwork on the fertiliser I bought, most came from a factory near Rotterdam. The production depends on supplies of natural gas, and most now comes from Russia via a pipeline.
At least we still have good farmer. I am not convinced of the politicians and financial whiz-kids