Innovations in farm equipment are driving huge gains in productivity on today’s farms, just as they did eight decades ago when the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman first rolled off the presses. Back then, it was the mechanization of farm equipment, replacing animal power and back-breaking manual labor in the years following World War I.

Today, advances in technology like data management and satellite-based auto guidance are making farmers more productive and reducing input costs.

"We appear to be experiencing another big boost in farm productivity, just as we did a few times before in the last century or so," says Charles Stamp, John Deere vice president for public affairs. "We are at the beginning of another technological era … the convergence of computer and satellite technology, enabling monitors, sensors, telematics, cloud data storage and more — all of which give rise to precision farming and advances in information management."

It may be a few years before farmers see...