There’s a lot of variability in how crop sensors pay off, according to Mark Lehenbauer, Hannibal, MO, who uses Ag Leader’s OptRx sensor technology.

“We already had the yield monitor and sidedress equipment, so our only cost was the sensors,” he says. “We probably saw that pay off within two to three years, but that’s going to vary depending on the growing season and how much nitrogen you lose.”

Sensors can pay off either from a yield bump where more N is applied or by saving on N costs when they cut back on use.

“There’s not a flat equation. In some fields, we’ve seen no benefit and in others we’ve had a yield bump of 60, 70, even 80 bu./acre,” Lehenbauer says.

He estimates that 400-500 acres of corn may be the breakeven point between contracting for variable application versus buying sensor technology.