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Implementing Variable Rate Seeding

Capitalize on your fields' full yield potential with a little know-how

You have probably heard about variable rate seeding (VRS), the process of applying different populations of seed within a field to maximize the growing potential of different areas. The innovative technology is one of the industry's newest and most advanced, allowing corn growers to reach higher yields than ever before, while more efficiently planting  seed  and raising profits.

Don't let the advanced tools used in VRS intimidate you. The implementation procedure is really not much different than determining a regular yield goal, and it requires basically the same information. While VRS requires a bit more crop management, the return on investment could truly exceed your expectations.

If you are thinking about starting a VRS program, here are a few considerations to help you better understand the process.

Availability of Water

Whether or not a field has irrigation influences VRS decisions. Dave Swain, Manager of Precision Ag Technologies at Southern States, says the water factor helps set your population goal range. "An irrigated field typically has the potential to handle a higher population of seed."

Grower Practices

Another VRS consideration involves looking at the current methods of the grower. "A grower's fertilization practices and how aggressive they are with plant populations to begin with can affect what changes must be made in a VRS plan," Swain says. "When planning VRS, we sit down with a grower to learn their current practices and how they fit in to a VRS program."

Seed Traits

How a variety of corn responds in its current conditions also has a large impact on the population of seed that should be planted.

Soil Conditions

Soil sampling and testing helps to determine how the soil will react to a larger population, so agronomists will study the results to map out where the best yield potential lies. "Analyzing the soil will tell you if you have an opportunity for a higher return," Swain says.

You won't need additional soil tests if you already practice site-specific or grid sampling. Composite samplers might need to change their sampling methods, however.

State of Mind

Growers starting a VRS program should keep in mind that different populations have different needs. "You may have to change how the population is managed under VRS," Swain says.

For instance, higher populations of seed may need additional nutrients to reach their full potential, and growers should stay alert for any problems in the field, as denser populations of plants may increase the possibility of disease issues as well.

Still, even if VRS requires a bit more crop management, the payoff is well worth it. Overall, the results of the Southern States' VRS program for corn have been positive. "We've had great responses so far and the market for VRS continues to grow," Swain says. "It's proving to be a good return on investment."

For more information on VRS recommendations, consult your local Southern States Agronomy Professional.

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