Variable Rate Success Makes Precision Programs ‘Stick’

In the early 2000’s during the last major dip in the agriculture economy, precision programs – more specifically, variable-rate fertilizer recommendations — were among the first victims of cutbacks that growers employed in an effort to cut costs. With concerns running high about a significant retreat in crop prices in 2014, could history repeat itself?

A report in ag retailer publication CropLife magazine, “2014 State of the Industry,” indicated that retailers are bullish on their precision programs, in large part because they are more established and collaborative with grower customers.

Bill Moyer, owner of agronomy consulting firm LFB Solutions, Coldwater, MI, is among those who feel confident that precision programs have staying power. In part, it’s because of his approach to variable rate fertility.

Since the beginning, Moyer has bought into the concept of “maximum economic yield,” an approach he first encountered during his days managing a fertilizer retail business some 20 years ago.

“At the time, I thought that was a tremendous concept,” says Moyer.  Maximum economic yield is about creating a recommendation that considers tillage practices, planting practices, and more efficiently uses nutrients by placing them where they are needed and not placing them in areas where they are already high —  but that is still going to deliver a payback to the grower. “I look at precision agriculture practices as a tremendous way to carry that concept even further.”

Moyer says that creating a recommendation in the spirit of maximum economic yield requires two things – a thorough knowledge of the soil and yield data. “There are certain areas of the field that will have more water holding capacity, or nutrient holding capacity,” says Moyer. “Why not drive those areas of the field as far as they can go?” Conversely, identifying what areas of the field that cannot be maximized through fertility increases, or which already have adequate nutrient availability, will tend to balance out the total field load of fertilizer.

“I look at variable rate capabilities as being able to address high and low production areas, maximize input across the field and ultimately save money. That said, you don’t want to drop fertilizer application on the poorer areas of the field to the point that they underperform, but it’s simply not necessary to pour a bunch of money into them unless things can be improved measurably.”

Moyer notes that soils in his area feature significant variability, making the one size fits all fertility approach particularly detrimental.

Moyer says the approach to soil understanding doesn’t particularly matter – identifying mangement zones and/or grid sampling can be the basis for a successful program. Actual soil sampling, combined with data from historic soil type maps, create a solid base of data. Finally, the addition of yield data – ideally, multiple years – ground truths the program and allows the agronomist to fine tune recommendations.

Ultimately you have to start looking at yield monitor data from multiple years, says Moyer, because taken individually or in small samples, outlying variables can push the yield number to a positive or negative extreme. “When you are looking at multiple years of data, you can more confidently identify patterns in production that are simply too significant to ignore,” he says. A consistent replication of a pattern may point to the need to redraw management zones.” In time, with enough corroborating data, a field may prove to be a good candidate for variable rate seeding to even further maximize economic yield.

Moyer says that growers at the upper mid range of acreage – 1000 to about 2500 acres – are finding justification in using variable rate fertility programs “A few dollars and acre here or there adds up when spread over that amount of acreage,” says Moyer. “Variable rate fertility and planting are relatively inexpensive compared to a lot of things we do on farms.”

Moyer feels strongly that his more experienced precision clients – those in a program for 3 to 4 years already – are not in danger of walking away from the groundwork they have laid.

 

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
Resistant-weeds-in-Brazil
InternationalUsing Precision Agriculture to Control Herbicide-Resistant Weeds in Brazil
July 24, 2017
The occurrence of weeds in agricultural fields of grain and fiber production has caused losses to farmers for a long 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
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
Latest News
Premier-Crop-Systems-Enhanced-Learning-Blocks
UncategorizedSyngenta Invests in Premier Crop Systems’ Enhanced Lear…
July 27, 2017
Long an industry leader in developing digital tools that enable growers and their advisors to make sound agronomic decisions, Premier Read More
John Deere Headquarters Reuters Eric Thayer
Data ManagementAnother Integration: Deere, Granular Link Up
July 26, 2017
John Deere and Granular announced today a product development and co-marketing agreement that gives John Deere customers more tools to Read More
Senet Network
Sensors/IoTSenet, Sensoterra to Deliver Real-Time Soil Moisture Mo…
July 26, 2017
Senet, a provider of global connectivity and network management for the Internet of Things, and Sensoterra BV, a provider of Read More
Systems ManagementAGCO to Acquire Precision Planting
July 26, 2017
AGCO and The Climate Corp. announced today that a definitive agreement has been signed for AGCO to acquire the Precision Read More
CNH-and-Trimble-Data-Sharing_1
Data ManagementTrimble, CNH Collaborate on Data Sharing Connectivity
July 26, 2017
Trimble and CNH Industrial, a global leader in agricultural equipment, have announced they are enabling wireless connectivity between Trimble Ag Read More
Imagery/SensingEFC Systems Announces Imagery Delivery Integration with…
July 25, 2017
EFC Systems, Inc. has announced a new integration between its FieldAlytics product and Geosys Bridge API for direct delivery of Read More
Tablet Grower
Data ManagementProspera Raises $15 Million to Transform Farms with Dat…
July 25, 2017
Digital farming company Prospera has announced a $15 million Series B funding round. Qualcomm Ventures, the investment arm of Qualcomm Read More
Resistant-weeds-in-Brazil
InternationalUsing Precision Agriculture to Control Herbicide-Resist…
July 24, 2017
The occurrence of weeds in agricultural fields of grain and fiber production has caused losses to farmers for a long Read More
John-Deere-and-Farm-Dog
Grower Services & SolutionsFarm Dog Strengthens its Integration with John Deere Op…
July 24, 2017
Farm Dog, the leading pest and disease management platform for growers and agronomists, has completed the second stage of its Read More
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