Take the right steps to maximize the returns of variable rate technology on your farm.
Making the jump to variable rate technology (VRT) on your farm is not a quick, fast, cheap or easy one. But by taking the right steps, farmers can accurately begin to provide only the needed inputs for their crops.
“Variable rate is a high management practice,” says Brad Beutke of Crop-Tech Consulting. “You need to take care of the basics first because you’ll have a bigger economic gain by correcting these problems then by doing variable rate.”
The basics include having:
- A comprehensive fertility plan, which includes product, placement and timing and how all of these affect fertility
- Genetic selection and placement of crop
- Soil density and tillage, which include compaction, horizontal layers and disease management
- Uniform stands that are created by seedbed preparation and planter/meter calibration
- Pest management (weeds, insects and diseases)
- Managing harvest loss, which includes timeliness and disease management
Beutke says adding VRT to your operation typically takes four to five years to accomplish. That timeframe enables you to master most of the basic steps indicated above.
Additionally, farmers need to collect specific information about their fields to begin to build a library of field history.
A soil test will provide a lot of this needed information, Beutke says. This includes:
- pH ratings
- Organic matter
- Water holding capacity
- ISNT (Illinois State Nitrogen Test – organic nitrogen in soil)
- PSNT (pre-side dress nitrate test)
Other valuable information for VRT is:
- Accurate, calibrated yield maps
- NDVI aerial imagery/satellite imagery
- NDVI active sensor imagery (ex: AgLeader OptRX, Trimble GreenSeeker, Topcon CropSpec)
- Soil sensor data (ex: Veris Electrical Conductivity)
- Soil type data (obtained online at U.S. Geological Survey, National Resources Conservation Service or Web Soil Survey)
- On-farm trial information: population by soil type, nitrogen by soil type, and population/nitrogen interactions
Beutke says all of this information is used to identify and refine management zones to vary rates.
Beutke led one of the breakout sessions at the 2011 Farm Journal Corn College near Bloomington, Ill.
Make Plans to Attend these Upcoming Corn College Events
Can’t make it to one of the Illinois Corn Colleges? Check these out.
Soybean College: Aug. 1 to 2., Coldwater, Mich.
With a large focus on in-field diagnostics, let Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist Missy Bauer teach you the secrets to soybean production. This event will focus on fundamentals, soybean growth and take-home knowledge of how to raise better beans. World-record soybean yield farmer Kip Cullers will present a special breakout session. Click here to register
Corn College “Fundamentals”: Aug. 3 to 4, Coldwater, Mich.
The Farm Journal Corn College Fundamentals session provides practical, hands-on training to help corn growers advance their production skills, increase yields and improve their profitability. This session is geared for the first-time Corn College attendee and will provide them with the core knowledge of how to use the Systems Approach on their farm. Click here to register