5 VRA Tips From VRA Specialist

Variable Rate Application of Fertilizer

About a month ago we put out an article entitled, “Why Variable Rate Is Still a Tough Sell,” asserting that a combination of a lack of technology understanding and skepticism about the benefits have hampered adoption over the life of the technology.

We asked for comments and feedback, and included a reader poll to get directed response, in particular to the use of VRA nitrogen.

The responses were interesting. In the poll, 7 in 10 indicated that they knew of some farmers in their areas doing variable rate nitrogen, and of those, 4 in 10 said they knew “several” farmers using variable rate fertilizer technology for N.

Then we got some comments telling us some very compelling positive stories about variable rate adoption. So we followed up with one commenter, Larry Schonert at TSM Services (short for Total Soil Management) in Catlin, IL to tell us why he is a VRA believer.

TSM Services, Inc. was established in 1984 to assist fertilizer dealers and growers with all their agronomy needs including the comprehensive soil fertility program called Total Soil Management. The company makes fertility recommendations on more than 90 different crops and crop combinations on all soil types.

“We have seen success using VRA in our own research, and the success has been based upon the yield results we have seen from our Research Farm here in Catlin,” says Schonert. “For 18 years, from 1993 to 2010, we soil tested annually and applied fertilizer annually on individual plots to test different fertility programs available to growers today, including our own fertility program.

“In the past 2 years,” he continues, “we simplified this procedure somewhat by going to 1 acre grids, sampling annually and applying fertilizer annually while concentrating on other kinds of research.”

The results?  Schonert says the increases in yield on the 18 years of research were fairly dramatic on all fertility programs. “We believe variable-rate application is part of that equation, and therefore we have come to some conclusions that we pass on to our customers.”

Schonert shared these five key conclusions with us:

1) Soil test as often as economically possible.   “Don’t miss this important point when it comes to Variable Rate application.  We believe soil tests change too much over a 4 year period to be making accurate applications in the third to fourth year of the test.  We have soil test results over the 18 years to show how much change is possible in a short period of time.”

2) Different fertility programs make large differences.   “We spent 18 years testing different fertility programs, and some programs are better than others.  Frankly, we found that our TSM Soil Fertility program consistently out-yielded other programs by and average of 4-8 bushel over this 18 year period.

“The point is this:  are you helping the grower if you are doing a great job applying a poor fertility program?  Variable-rate application is a great thing, but a grower needs a good fertility program to make it work to the fullest.  In addition, the better the year for growing a crop, the more dramatic the yield differences were between the different fertility programs.”

3) Sample Quality Counts.  The foundation of a good variable rate program is the soil sampling.  If the sample quality is poor, then the recommendation will not be accurate.  Better and more accurate sampling have a higher cost, and there may be resistance here because of higher costs.

4) Determining Grid Size.   What should determine grid size? Is it soil variability or yield variability?  Sometimes these are one in the same, but not always.  We lean toward the yield variability in determining grid size, but obviously grower and dealer preferences play an important role also.

5) Growers Must Be Believers.   “I personally believe the main reason why variable-rate application is a tough sell is because of the mindset of different growers. If the mindset is to keep expenses low, then VRA will be a tough sell for dealers to their customers.

“Another mindset is one of perceived benefit by the growers – if what they have been doing has been profitable for them in the past, why change to something new which costs more?  We believe the research shows the benefits, and as the number of years using VRA accumulate, the benefits increase also.”

We invite you to keep the conversation going and comment here, or send an email to Paul Schrimpf with your point of view.

Leave a Reply

Variable Rate Stories

Variable Rate2014 Precision Ag Top 5 Technologies
September 2, 2014
The top precision agriculture technologies didn’t change in the past year, according to experts. What has changed, however, is their order of activity. Read More
Variable RateVRA Shows Growth In All Its Forms
May 27, 2014
From seed to fertility to irrigation, variable rate is benefiting from the positive ag economy and a proliferation of new technology. Read More
Variable RateVariable Rate Success Makes Precision Programs ‘Stick’
January 28, 2014
A Michigan-based consultants believes variable-rate fertilizer programs will hold up in 2014, even if the ag economy takes a step back this year. Read More
EquipmentTeeJet Technologies Introduces New Automatic Sprayer Control
August 29, 2013
The Radion 8140 automatic sprayer rate control is equipped with a bright 4.3" color touch screen, allowing operators to easily enter system settings and the target application rate. Read More

Trending Articles

ImageryDrones Grounded: NTSB Overturns Pirker Decision, Affirms FAA Authority
November 19, 2014
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a much-awaited decision ruling that FAA rules that apply to manned aircraft apply to unmanned aircraft or drones, reports Forbes.com contributor John Goglia; Pirker can still appeal. Read More
Variable RateA Doubleshot Of Precision Ag Services
November 3, 2014
Ag retailer South Dakota Wheat Growers is using an innovative piece of equipment to enhance the precision ag application work for its growers-customers. Read More
DataPrecision Interest Grows In Brazil
October 29, 2014
The country has made solid progress on soil sampling and variable-rate fertility, but limited cell coverage hampers connectivity and data collection. Read More
DataAmerican Farm Bureau Survey Shows Big Data Use Increasing
October 24, 2014
A survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation shows more farmers are reaping the benefits of the latest agricultural technologies, but most remain wary of risks involved with big data collection. Read More
PrecisionAg Institute1 On 1 With Paul Schrimpf: Simplot’s Allan Fetters
October 8, 2014
Allan Fetters of Simplot talks with PrecisionAg Executive Editor Paul Schrimpf about the precision ag challenges and opportunities for specialty crop growers, how variable rate planting is gaining momentum among Simplot’s customers, how the company’s SmartFarm solutions are helping farmers make better decisions, and much more. Read More
MappingDuPont Pioneer Teams With Government Organizations For Soil Initiative
October 6, 2014
University of Missouri, USDA-ARS and DuPont Pioneer announce an innovative collaboration to pool soil mapping resources, predictive technologies and expertise. Read More

Latest News

ImageryAUVSI Announces New Leader For 2015
November 21, 2014
Brian Wynne has been named president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). Read More
GPSTopcon Acquires German Console Manufacturer
November 20, 2014
Wachendorff Elektronik GmbH and its US subsidiary, Wachendorff Electronics Inc., are leading manufacturers of in-cabin mounted consoles for the industrial vehicle market in the agricultural and construction industries. Read More
DataRanch Systems, OnFarm Announce Partnership
November 19, 2014
Ranch Systems, a new OnFarm Ready Partner, is now “plug and play” compatible with the Grower Dashboard; growers can now seamlessly view field data collected by Ranch Systems. Read More
DataFarmers Edge Looking To Expand U.S. Customer Base
November 19, 2014
A Canadian precision ag outfit is feeling frisky after a recent capital infusion, looking at bringing its agnostic data management system to more U.S. growers and retailers. Read More
ImageryDrones Grounded: NTSB Overturns Pirker Decision, Affirm…
November 19, 2014
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a much-awaited decision ruling that FAA rules that apply to manned aircraft apply to unmanned aircraft or drones, reports Forbes.com contributor John Goglia; Pirker can still appeal. Read More
DataAgrian, Others Detail Open Modus Standard For Ag Data
November 19, 2014
The Open Modus Standard provides the industry with a single, unified format for data management and exchange that can be used across Farm Management Information Systems (FMIS) in support of precision agriculture. Read More
ComputingNew AyrMesh Bridge Provides Long-Range Network Access
November 18, 2014
Ayrstone Productivity introduced the AyrMesh Bridge, a 5-mile-long, point-to-point Internet bridge that acts like a wireless Ethernet cable, allowing farmers and ranchers to easily connect distant devices to their networks. Read More
DataValley Launches Irrigation Exchange Data Transfer Solut…
November 18, 2014
Irrigation Exchange provides for the seamless transfer of precision data to other ag companies from BaseStation3, the new Valley remote irrigation management product. Read More
DataMajor Farm Organizations Ratify Data Privacy Policy
November 13, 2014
A coalition of major farm organizations and agriculture technology providers have announced an agreement on data privacy and security principles. Read More
DataAgGateway Releases Data Privacy White Papers
November 11, 2014
AgGateway's Data Privacy and Security Committee has published a white paper to help the agriculture industry consider ways to incorporate data privacy best practices and standards into their operations. Read More
GuidanceRaven Industries Names CFO
November 11, 2014
Steven E. Brazones will join the company as its Chief Financial Officer, effective December 1, 2014. He succeeds Thomas Iacarella, who will remain with the company and work with Brazones to ensure a smooth transition. Read More
ImageryFAA Confirms Small Drone Rule By End Of Year
November 11, 2014
The proposed ruling, which the agency has been working on over the past year, is currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget, Jim Williams, manager of the FAA’s UAS integration office, said on Nov. 5. Read More
DataFarmers Edge Receives Funding Infusion
November 10, 2014
Farmers Edge has received an investment from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ Green Growth Fund for expansion of Farmers Edge’s technology platform. Read More
GuidanceIndustry Loses Tremendous Young Leader
November 9, 2014
Pat Schaddel, a young leader and innovator in precision ag for Brandt Consolidated, passed away on November 6. Read More
SteeringStara Selects AgJunction eDrive XC Precision Steering F…
November 6, 2014
Stara and AgJunction have signed an agreement to integrate AgJunction's newest and highest performing steering solution, eDrive XC with Stara's industry-leading precision terminal, the Topper 5500. Read More
PrecisionAg Institute1 On 1 With Paul Schrimpf: Raven’s Tim Hines
November 5, 2014
Tim Hines of Raven Industries talks with PrecisionAg Executive Editor Paul Schrimpf about the latest with the Slingshot precision ag system, including new products and services available under the brand such as SmartYield Pro and Viper 4. Read More
MappingNew MapShots Site Goes Live
November 3, 2014
The site includes an enhanced homepage, more robust content and new navigation, all leading to a more user-friendly experience. Read More
DataDuPont, Raven Join Forces On Encirca Yield Data Transfe…
November 3, 2014
As part of this data exchange, growers can choose to have their Encirca services prescriptions wirelessly transferred directly to compatible Raven controllers. Read More