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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Variable Rate Seeding

So you have been reading about variable rate seeding and it sounds like a good idea.  Here is my take on it.  First, this should not be the first thing you do with GPS technology.  If you do not have some sort of steering guidance get it and use it for a year or two.  You can jump in with row shutoffs on your planter and sprayer any time.  The systems seem to work well and save money on seed and crop protectants. 

How many years of yield monitor data do you have?  You should have at least 5 years of data and pay someone else to look at it and give you a second opinion on interpretations.  Maybe even use the yield data to analyze profitability.  Use the yield maps to collect soil fertility data.  Yield zones make the most sense to me.  You should look at soil survey maps and see if they tell you anything about your problem areas.  If you can overlay yield maps on soil maps and see if they match, you might be able to use soil boundaries as zone boundaries. 

Before you try variable rate seeding, correct the fertility issues in your zones.  You also need to correct drainage issues.  Spending money on drainage will make you money in the long run, and maybe even in the short run.  Drainage is a depreciable expense so spread the cost out over several years.  Figure out if you have spotty nematode problems, weed problems or some other issue and see what can be done to protect your crop from those issues. 

Does it sound like you should have started on this 10 years ago?  It should.  Yes many of you have  a lot of other things you should look at before you start on variable rate seeding.  The high tech guys other there who have all the other issues taken care of might be ready for it, but I am not sure. 

Consider the past year for example.  Sandy bottomland soils outyielded the heavier soils nearby by a lot.  Would you have cheated yourself with lower populations?  Some say don't back off on lower yielding soils, just kick it up on higher yield areas.  Make sure you have good zone boundaries.  Watch your monitor as you plant and see if the yield zones match the landscape.  Look for areas to correct in the future.  Also remember that  you will need to soil sample often and use your zones to determine where to pull the samples. 

Am I sold on variable rate seeding?  I think there area  lot of things you can do before trying it.  If you think you are there then go for it.  With the high cost of seed corn, getting the most out of your seed makes sense.

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