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

Guidance Stories
Hagie sprayer
GuidanceWhat’s New and What’s Next from Hagie Manufacturing
May 16, 2017
Many were surprised by John Deere’s announcement last spring that it had acquired majority ownership of Hagie Manufacturing Co., a Read More
GuidanceTersus adds RTK-Based AutoSteer System to GNSS Offerings
May 8, 2017
Tersus GNSS Inc., a Chinese GNSS RTK manufacturing company, released its brand new AutoSteer solution recently. The AG960 AutoSteer System Read More
GuidanceTopcon Debuts SI-21 Lightbar for X-Family of Displays
February 28, 2017
Topcon Agriculture announces the release of the SI-21 Lightbar, designed as a cost-effective, user-friendly product to complement manual guidance, providing Read More
GuidanceTopcon Launching New X35 In-Cab Display Console
February 27, 2017
Topcon Agriculture introduces the new X35 — the next generation in the X-Family of touchscreen displays with advanced functionality. Designed Read More
Trending Articles
Yield Data Image
Data ManagementYield Data: More Than a Pretty Picture
July 13, 2017
It is mid-July, which, for the Australian cotton industry, means that picking is still going on for some growers. A Read More
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
ProfessionalsPatience Needed: Lessons for Getting New Tech onto the Farm
July 6, 2017
A popular joke within the tech industry was trotted out at GAI AgTech Week in Boston, MA, speaking volumes about Read More
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
EventsPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
Gavin Newsom Forbes AgTech-Summit
ProfessionalsAgTech Summit Aiming High for Modern Farming Solutions
June 12, 2017
THRIVE AgTech, in partnership with SVG Partners and Forbes, is hosting the third annual Forbes AgTech Summit June 28-29 in Read More
Quantix Drone Farmer
DronesTop 10 Most Intriguing Technologies in Agriculture
June 3, 2017
This may be a bit of stating the obvious here, but we’ll throw it out there anyways: as much as Read More
Farming iPad
Data ManagementOpinion: ROI or Die in Precision Agriculture
May 12, 2017
The thought of $3.50 corn for the foreseeable future seems pretty disheartening. However, if you look at the precision ag Read More
Latest News
Industry NewsLindsay Corp. Names Dow’s Timothy Hassinger New C…
July 19, 2017
Lindsay Corp. has  announced the appointment of Timothy Hassinger as president and CEO and a member of its board of Read More
InfoAg 2015
Events2017 Awards of Excellence Winners Announced
July 18, 2017
PrecisionAg Institute is pleased to announce its Awards of Excellence winners for 2017. Honorees of this year’s prestigious award are Read More
Interseeding Cover Crops
ProfessionalsA 3-Step Approach to Interseeding Cover Crops
July 18, 2017
As growers continue to search for opportunities to create healthier soils and increase yields, more trusted advisors and farmers are Read More
Rod Weimer and Paul Schrimpf
Excellence AwardsPast Recipients Of The PrecisionAg Awards Of Excellence
July 18, 2017
Since 2007, the PrecisionAg Insititute has sponsored the annual Awards of Excellence program. Here's a list of the past winners. Read More
Data ManagementEFC Announces FieldAlytics, Adapt-N Expanded Integratio…
July 17, 2017
EFC Systems is pleased to announce an expanded integration between its FieldAlytics product and Agronomic Technology Corp’s Adapt-N nitrogen recommendations Read More
Data ManagementOpinion: Benchmarking in Precision Agriculture is Big S…
July 17, 2017
Benchmarking has become a buzzword in precision agriculture recently and before we get too excited with all of the profound Read More
Yield Data Image
Data ManagementYield Data: More Than a Pretty Picture
July 13, 2017
It is mid-July, which, for the Australian cotton industry, means that picking is still going on for some growers. A Read More
Industry NewsQuick Rewind: Ohio Dealer Talks Deere-Precision Plantin…
July 12, 2017
A few weeks ago I took a quick trip south down I-71 to Central Ohio (for you non-Buckeyes, I-71 runs Read More
DronesSentera Launches Versatile Quad Sensor for Drones
July 12, 2017
Fully Customizable Filters on Sentera Quad Sensor Allow for Unique Crop Health Detection Capabilities Sentera introduces the latest update to Read More
Hortau Irrigation Management Software
Sensors/IoTHortau Named Finalist for CogX Artificial Intelligence …
July 10, 2017
Hortau was recently named a CogX Award finalist in the Best Artificial Intelligence Product in Agriculture category. The awards were Read More
Grower Services & SolutionsVantage South Atlantic Announces Mid-South Expansion
July 10, 2017
Vantage South Atlantic announced that it has joined Trimble Agriculture’s global network of independent Vantage partners to provide farmers, advisors, Read More
Ag Retailer and Grower WinField United
Decision Support SoftwareAgronomic Technology Corp Surpasses Daily Nitrogen Reco…
July 6, 2017
Agronomic Technology Corp, a leader in agricultural field modeling for soil, water, crops, and fertilizer, for the first time surpassed Read More
Precision IrrigationDealership Celebrates 25 Years in the Irrigation Game
July 6, 2017
25 years ago, Bobby Kempenich had an idea. An idea to launch a business that combined his knowledge of irrigation Read More
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
ProfessionalsPatience Needed: Lessons for Getting New Tech onto the …
July 6, 2017
A popular joke within the tech industry was trotted out at GAI AgTech Week in Boston, MA, speaking volumes about Read More
Deere R4023 cab
Business ManagementOpinion: Reality vs. Hype in Precision Agriculture
July 6, 2017
I think there is a certain word that can accurately describe much of the precision ag and/or ag tech industry right Read More
Events2017 agBOT Challenge Winners Announced
July 6, 2017
Driverless robotic machines entered the fields of Gerrish Farms in Rockville, IN in June 2017. Universities and entrepreneurial teams showcased Read More
gomez-featured
ProfessionalsCommitment to Ag Innovation: Q&A with DuPont Pionee…
July 5, 2017
Editor’s note: PrecisionAg.com contributor Amy Wu often writes about women in ag technology. Recently, she interviewed DuPont Pioneer’s Nadilia Gomez, research scientist, Read More
LAP
InternationalLAP and ABPSAP: Advancing Precision Agriculture in Braz…
July 5, 2017
In this article, I would like to highlight two important entities of precision agriculture in Brazil. The first of these Read More