Variable-rate technology may not reduce inputs as much as put them in the zone to provide you with the biggest payback. However, variable-rate technology is a high-management practice, and Brad Beutke relays the following lessons he shared at the 2011 Corn College in central Illinois.
“There are many things that a farmer needs to ask themselves before they step into variable-rate,” Beutke says. “They need to make sure they set the foundation using the Systems Approach, which includes pest management, uniform stands, getting your tillage right, and a comprehensive fertility plan.”
He explains that the farmers getting the biggest pay back from variable rate population and variable rate nitrogen application have the Systems Approach integrated across their acres.
“However, with variable rate the paybacks can be significant,” he says. “With variable rate population we are able to lower population in less productive areas while still maintaining yields.”
A lesson he has learned in the field has been where populations are raised, nitrogen also needs to be increased.
“Farmers may think they’ll be using less nitrogen with variable rate, but we are trying to shift where we are putting that fertilizer on the fields,” he says.
As for where to start, Beutke says it is often easier for farmers who are already in the process of purchasing a new planter to outfit it for variable rate. And more retailers are supplying farmers with toolbars that are variable-rate ready.
However, he says if he had to pick between variable rate planting or variable rate nitrogen, he’d go with nitrogen.
“But remember that you need to have a firm handle on a comprehensive fertility program with soil testing and nitrogen timing,” Beutke says.
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