It may resemble an artist’s palette at first glance, but a fertility map has far more to offer farmers than just a splash of colour.

In truth, a fertility map is foundational and is an essential step to determine the best growing areas on the farm’s fields. If accurate (and updated overtime), the fertility map guides the creation of effective variable rate prescriptions for applying fertilizer and seed.

Let’s explore fertility maps and the part they play in developing variable rate prescriptions for Optimize RX™ services.

Fertility maps are not created equal

Fertility maps may be created using a range of different techniques resulting in a colour-code representation of a farm’s field. But did you know that the quality of the data will vary greatly on your results depending on the process used to create the map?

Decisive Farming developed and refined the process over several years to create the best fertility map by using a patented process which incorporates satellite imagery and other data to build a composite map featuring detailed zone boundaries. This step is followed by GPS benchmarked soil testing conducted at depths of zero to six inches and six to 24 inches to capture over 20 soil characteristics in each zone.

Once developed, a fertility map is easy to interpret. Dark green zones are the most fertile and typically offer the highest yield potential. They are followed by light green sections which are slightly less rich. Red zones are lower production areas while yellow zones fall somewhere in between the green and red sections in terms of fertility and production potential.

Open for interpretation

Although the map provides a detailed look at the fertility of each zone, it isn’t meant to be a blueprint for what should be planted and where. This is where the knowledge and experience of a senior soil fertility expert collaborates with the grower to determining how much they want to invest in each zone based on potential yield and profitability. The grower provides final approval of the recommendations.

Helps complete the farm’s data

All fertility maps, goals, equipment information and other essential data are captured to create a comprehensive crop plan that is available in the grower’s My Farm Manager™ account. This software allows growers to view everything from historical farm data, to how many acres they have in each zone, and even up-to-date equipment records.

Implementing variable rate fertilizer and seed applications

Once the grower has their prescription map uploaded to My Farm Manager™, they can then upload the data directly into their drill including through telematics such as CaseIH’s AFS connect. As they travel across the field, the fertilizer and seed application is automatically adjusted to match the needs of each particular zone based on GPS location.

If you’re wondering if all this effort is worth it, consider that the fertility map contributed to building a comprehensive variable rate prescription that will help control input costs as well as provide them with a significant boost in yield. In the case of Optimize RX variable rate services, the typical net increased return on investment for a farm is $20 per acre after accounting for the cost of the service.