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Variable Rate Seeding

Precise seeding to maximize a field's full potential

Success comes from taking advantage of every opportunity you can. One technique used in precision farming, called variable rate seeding, helps growers seize untapped opportunities in their own fields. Variable rate seeding, or VRS, is the practice of dynamically adjusting the amount of seeds planted in areas of fields based on location-specific information on fertility and other factors that affect yield. VRS could help you raise the potential of your farm today.

Variable Rate Seeding Explained

VRS could help maximize your farm's productivity. A management tool, it works based on information gathered on the field's conditions using GPS-enabled equipment and software programs.

Soil that has favorable nutrient content and moisture levels can actually handle an increased seed population. Using a higher seed count on more productive areas of fields and a lower seed count on less productive areas helps growers take full advantage of their land, maximizing their seed investment and increasing their crop's productivity.

Dave Swain, Manager of Precision Ag Technologies at Southern States, says that VRS attempts to match seeding rates with soils that can handle a higher seed population. "Under favorable conditions, seeds do not rob each other of nutrients, moisture and other inputs," Swain says. "It's when seeds compete for inputs that productivity is compromised."

What to Know

Several factors help provide insight into a field's potential.

  • Yield maps detailing productive areas on a farm and good soils that can handle a high seed population
  • Soil characteristics derived from soil tests
  • Field boundary maps
  • Seed or crop type, as VRS works well with some crops and not with others. For example, when used with cotton, research has shown that VRS is not economically feasible at this time.
  • Experience, from the grower's own knowledge to a consulting agronomist's

VRS consulting services provide mapping programs of seeding recommendations after the customer supplies information. Swain notes that the more information provided, the better the decisions resulting from consulting will be.

Future of VRS

At the 2014 National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Kentucky, manufacturers unveiled a new product that could have a profound effect on VRS technologies in the future. The show introduced a new planter that can distribute two different types of seed at once, allowing growers to switch seed varieties in the field. "The ability to change the variety for conditions within the field takes VRS to a different level," Swain says.

It remains to be seen how much of an impact the new planters can make on yields, but it's certainly exciting to know such technology exists to continue to help farms reach their full potential, adds Swain.

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

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