Variable rate technology increases production and manage costs while reducing waste

We farm in a time where working smarter, rather than harder, is essential to running a successful, sustainable business. There’s an incredible push in agriculture today for you to balance economics on the farm with environmental practices that keep farmland healthy for generations to come.

The key to achieving this balance lies in using agtech to increase production and manage costs from every acre, while reducing waste at the same time. Precision agriculture is helping farmers like you understand more about your fields than ever before, while incorporating variable rate (VR) technology to up productivity and minimize waste.

While Prairie growers have become more familiar with VR fertilizer strategy over the years – precisely placing the right applications for nutrient uptake in the right areas of the field, VR seeding – adjusting seeding rates to the growing conditions in every zone on your farm, might be a newer concept. However, the ideas are similar, and they answer the challenges around increasing yield while managing costs.

The key to using VR technology to optimize your acreage production is extremely zone management specific and that’s why selecting a proven program is important. With anywhere from five-to-seven zones in a field, all with differing soil characteristics and topography, each must be treated very differently. In contrast to broadly applying nutrients and seeding in the same ratios everywhere, VR technology gives you precise control and measurements for exactly what you put into every zone on your farm.

The fact that this technology is incredibly advantageous is easy to see, but it never hurts to recap a few key benefits. Keep in mind, these advantages are subject to environmental factors and management practices on your farm.

  • Optimized yields
    This is typically the primary goal when adopting VR technology. Working with a trusted professional, you’ll more clearly determine your yield goals, whether it’s greater yield overall, in a specific area, at a certain price point or simply consistency.
  • Increased crop quality
    VR technology is all about understanding the ways you may get better quality, increased protein or more uniform establishment across all your acres.
  • Better standability
    That uniform establishment also delivers a more uniform plant stand. This helps reduce lodging and improves harvest timing as well as fungicide timing and control of disease management.
  • Better time management
    Rather than spending time during the busy growing season making decisions on the fly, you’ll have planned your season with a tailor-made prescription for what and where you’re applying and seeding. With your VR prescription loaded into your equipment, once the weather and timing are right, you’ll hit the field knowing everything’s ready to go.
  • Digital records of the farm
    Digitally collected and stored information makes historical learning easy so you can keep improving your efficiency and protecting your investment dollars.
  • More sustainable field management
    While you’re protecting your investment using VR technology, you’re also protecting the environment and farming sustainably. When you understand and adapt to your soil’s variable qualities, you’ll prevent application loss to volatilization, denitrification and leaching.
  • Traceability of crop production
    VR technology’s digitized information and memory cards where your prescriptions are installed make it easy to trace the history of everything applied to your fields. This provides the traceability and transparency the industry is increasingly demanding.

A collaborative approach to precision agronomy

While the advantages of variable rate are clear to see, how do you manage all the moving parts of implementing the technology? Optimize RX® is your complete solution for VR applications and seeding, setting you on the right path to manage VR on your farm.

Our team of experienced agronomists and technicians work with you to explore the driving factors of each area of your farm, providing a tailored prescription based on the needs of each crop variety, field and zone. With unmatched customer support designed to simplify precision agriculture for you, your crop plans and inputs will also align to the capabilities of your equipment and your production goals.

Our collaborative approach to best management practices, working with a trusted partner who provides in-depth knowledge around your VR program is the key.

“We see our program as a partnership and collaboration with our producers,” says Andrea Bilodeau, senior agrologist with Decisive Farming. “We want them to hit the field confident that we will get the optimal yield for them. We also want to use good, solid traditional agronomy to get the best return on their investment in the end.”

On top of building this collaborative partnership you can trust in, here’s what else Optimize RX can do for your farm:


Improve your overall crop input efficiency

When you use VR technology to apply the right amount of nutrients combined with the ideal seeding rate, you may produce more from every acre of your land, while reducing waste in product.


Manage each zone within the field based on its yield potential

This is key. Every opportunity is maximized when you can individualize both seeding and crop nutrition applications to each different zone in your fields. The most and least productive areas in each field are matched with the corresponding seed rates and applications. Optimize RX takes on the heavy lifting, so you can put your energy elsewhere.

“We have a full-time geographic information system (GIS) team trained in global positioning systems (GPS) and all the programs that go with it. They work together with the producer to build a high-resolution boundary,” says Bilodeau. “Decisive Farming also has a patented process to build a multi-year composite fertility index map using normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) imagery and topographic data to build a map that is representative of the field.”

Soil sampling is then conducted based upon the unique vegetative index for each field with samples taken on every zone at 0-6” and 6-24”. With that, Optimize RX ensures your VR prescription is customized specifically to all your farmable zones.


Invest your dollars where it matters most

While you’re maximizing your yield on every acre, you’re also controlling costs and getting the most of every dollar spent on inputs and seed. “We want to be sure to return a tangible value to our farmers,” says Bilodeau. “There are so many different ways we can return value.” Optimize RX enables you to manage your investments today, so you can ensure the viability of your farm tomorrow.


The effects of success will ripple across your entire farm

When you set targets while collaborating with trusted professionals, you’ll easily measure your success as you go. You and your team can use these results to create future planning that allows you to invest where you can make the largest impact.

While you’re saving time and increasing production using VR technology, remember that 4R Nutrient Stewardship can guide you to achieve your production, profitability, environmental and sustainability goals. “4Rs have given us a wonderful framework to look at these four key elements,” Bilodeau says. “Nothing embodies the concept of 4R like variable rate fertility.”

Right source – It’s all about matching the right fertilizer type to crop needs. This includes taking a close look at the available sources of nutrients and making informed decisions about the bioavailability of products.

For example, using nitrogen inhibitors can ensure your nitrogen doesn’t convert to an unusable form and become available to the air or groundwater, thus protecting your investment for the crop, as well as caring for the environment.

Right rate – Matching the right fertilizer amounts to your crop needs is key and depends on both the prior state of the soil and which crops are being grown.

A prescription might recommend very low amounts of a product in lesser producing areas, while using more in higher producing areas to push yields. Interestingly, those lower producing sections are often the places where groundwater leaching is more prevalent. “By pulling back on our nutrient values there, where the crop is not going to use it, we’re using a better way of rate and place,” Bilodeau says. 

Right time – We want to make nutrients available right when crops need them. This involves calculating the interplay of crop uptake, soil supply, nutrient loss risk and field operation logistics.

Bilodeau says timing ties into nitrogen inhibitors as well. “We’re pretty specific in our advice to folks about the timing and the weather they should be watching for.”

Right place – The goal is to keep nutrients right where crops can use them. This involves analyzing and tracking the interplay between roots and soil to see nutrient movement and mitigate nutrient loss from the field.

“Years ago, lots of growers broadcast everything and would lose it to the air or the groundwater,” Bilodeau says. “This isn’t so common today. Fertilizer is typically either side-banded or seed-placed in a logical manner so that it’s available to the plant, in the exact place it needs it.”

Make each and every choice on your farm a strategic one using VR technology with customized fertility and seeding plans to meet your farm’s production goals now, and for the future.

Ready to integrate a precision agronomy solution to improve overall crop input efficiency so you can rest easy knowing you’re making the most out of each farmable acre? Let’s get to work. Together. Contact us for more information or contact your local Decisive Farming representative.