Not all acres are equal, getting the optimal performance out of crops starts at the soil level

Soil is the foundation of everything produced in our industry. Getting the most from every inch of your soil is, of course, always the goal. But understanding the variable qualities and yield potential held within each of those inches of soil across acres of farmland is not so simple.

Variability is still too often overlooked. Even if your field is flat, there is vast variability across that field. To confirm this, picture any given harvest: do you recall a time on your harvest monitor that your bushels per acre jump at any point? The answer would be yes. The reason for that jump? Variability.

Get to know your soil: soil sampling at the zonal level

Nutrient management starts with knowing your soil. On top of variability within each field, soil also changes throughout the season. When you understand how it’s changing you can manage it in ways that bring the most potential, and the least input waste, to your operation.

Soil variability comes in many forms. Texture, organic matter content, nutrient content, water holding capacity and compaction are all essential determining factors in crop nutrient uptake and therefore, your crop’s performance.

That’s why accurate soil sampling is a must. It not only looks at the nutrient needs of each field but can further serve as a diagnostic tool to deal with any problems within that field. Soil sampling is an especially effective foundation to your nutrient management program when you work with an experienced agronomic advisor who can explain the interactions in the soil between pH, Cation Exchange Capacity, texture and organic matter, all while saving you valuable time.

Achieving ideal nutrient levels is a balancing act. Using the 4Rs of Nutrient Stewardship can guide you to achieve a positive impact on yield, crop quality and ultimately, profitability.

Right source – Match the right fertilizer type to your crop needs. This includes looking closely at the available nutrient sources and making informed decisions when selecting products to maintain a balanced supply of nutrients for optimal plant growth.

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

Right time – Make nutrients available right when your crops need them. This involves calculating the interplay of crop nutrient uptake and risk of loss, while considering your field operation logistics.

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

Take that knowledge to the next level: yield potential and profitability

Once you better understand what’s happening within your soil, not only will you have a more accurate picture of the yield potential from field to field and even zone to zone, but you can then take this knowledge even further and improve your overall crop input efficiency by strategically managing your farm with a proven variable rate (VR) program.

Your VR program provides you soil and crop-specific nutritional information you can use to help boost nutrient uptake, build or increase soil organic matter and decrease nutrient loss to the environment. With all that information, the right provider can support you to get the most from your program based on your farm’s individual needs.

Decisive Farming’s Optimize RX® methodology is unique. We offer a tailored VR program that uses a patented process including multi-year satellite imagery, topography, annual soil testing and on-farm support.

Our on-farm team of experienced agronomists and technicians work directly with you to explore the driving factors of each area of your fields. We see our program as a partnership and collaboration with our farmers where we leverage your knowledge of your land and elevate it with our experience to find ways to optimize your yield potential.

Performance Insights

Making the decision to move to a VR program on the farm is an investment. No doubt you’re wondering, how do we see that investment returned? The truth is, it’s a loaded question precision agronomy companies get asked a lot. And sometimes, the answer is complicated considering the ways a solution performs on each farm depends on environmental factors, individual management and implementation.

As useful as it is, return on investment is often a quantitative, numbers-driven conversation that requires accurate data analysis conducted at the zonal level. But it’s also important to understand that while yield is the most obvious profitability determinant, it’s not the only factor at play. To that end, a qualitative review of your integrated on-farm solutions can be just as impactful as numbers when determining the effectiveness of your VR program. Undertaking such a review should encompass factors such as productivity, quality, efficiency and profitability.

When considering your overall ROI, here are a few outcomes where your VR program’s success should be evident:

Invest where it matters most – While you’re trying to maximize your yield on every acre, you’re also controlling costs and getting the most of every dollar spent on inputs and seed.

Improve overall crop input efficiency – When you use VR technology to apply the right amount of nutrients combined with the ideal seeding rate, you can produce more from every acre of your land.

Increase crop quality – Using VR increases understanding around all the ways you can achieve 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 may help reduce lodging and improve harvest timing as well as fungicide timing and control of disease management.

More sustainable field management – While you’re protecting your investment using VR, 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’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, so you’ll be ahead of the game.

The ROI-related impacts of your VR program are clearer to see and measure when you can review your performance insights at the end of each season with the accurate data and expertise your VR program provides. The information and knowledge gained and stored through your VR program is especially valuable when it comes to any decision making that can increase revenue on your farm.

When it comes to the performance review, it must be thorough, examining your farm in zones rather than at the farm level. With anywhere from five-to-seven zones in each field, all with differing soil characteristics and topography, the value in treating each differently cannot be stressed enough.

Decisive Farming offers a Harvest Review. We work with you to collect your field data, whether that’s as-applied, harvest data, etc., to provide you with performance insights. You may be able to validate your management practices by determining what worked, or even discover opportunities for improvement. These insights mean you can make informed decisions with more confidence and create a clear plan for the next season.

Ready to integrate a nutrient management program on your farm? Call 1-800-941-4811 or visit decisivefarming.com to get a custom nutrient plan for your farm and to try our variable rate program risk free* today!

*Conditions apply.