Why Should I Buy? – Variable Rate Precision Agriculture

Inputs prices are high and so are crop prices. Managing costs and yields is critical to success on your farm.  With commodity prices high you cannot settle for average yields. The use of variable rate precision ag products and services helps farmers to do just that.  Placing the inputs in the intended prescribed areas has become very popular and makes a tremendous amount of sense for many producers.  With the use of satellite imagery, soil testing and harvest data, some very innovative companies are helping farmers maximize yield, manage input costs and most importantly maximize profit.

With the tremendous growth of the variable rate precision ag industry, there are several options to choose from.  In this episode of “Why Should I Buy?” we talk to four different companies about the products and services they offer in the area of VRT precision agriculture. Representatives from Cargill FieldSense, Agri-Trend Geo Solutions, Farmers Edge and Decisive Farming all give us their best pitch in 2 minutes or less.

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Shaun Haney

Shaun grew up on a family seed farm in Southern Alberta. Haney Farms produces, conditions and retails wheat, barley, canola and corn seed. Shaun Haney is the founder of RealAgriculture.com. @shaunhaney

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3 Comments

Andy

Not once was soil health or long term sustainability mentioned by any of these reps. If one is maximizing yield, minimizing input costs and maximizing profit (all short term benefits) at the expense of soil health, is it really a great idea?

I am not saying that all variable rate ideas degrade soil, but some prescriptions do have that potential if it is sacrificing nutrients in low yield zones. This causes more OM to be utilized to provide nutrients that have not been replaced with fertilizer in good years. That results in less moisture holding ability, and fewer available nutrients. This reduces yields again, so even less fertilizer will be applied on that zone! Less OM, fewer crop residues, and shallower roots increase the risk of both wind and water erosion, usually on the most erosion prone areas of a field (hilltops). And if the hilltops start moving, often it will degrade downslope soils as well.

I really wish that soil health was a larger concern in Western Canadian agriculture. Of course, that doesn’t often sell inputs, seed, equipment or technology!

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Darin Wobick

Exactly, Andy! Then these poor areas have poorer crops, so why spray expensive chemicals on these areas? More programs and equipment to purchase and maybe a crop inspection to tell you if it is worth it. Then you may as well put these areas into grass, but to save time and inputs, more mapping and programming, maybe sectional control because these areas don’t always come in nice square pieces, combines turning or running empty, etc. I think that more inputs like slow release nitrogen, extra phos, compost, manure, etc, make more sense (short and long term) than simply next years profit per acre.

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Frank

Andy, you have hit the nail on the head, great comment.

I am with one of the companies interviewed, I wont say which because you’ll say I’m biased, so all I’ll say is that there are key differences in the models that weren’t discussed in the impromptu. At least two of these companies simply put less inputs where the crop grows less, mainly based on sattelite photo. Our company ground-truths, soil samples every zone, and gets a long term trendline going to show nutrient ratios, pH, organic matter, etc at different depths. Higher yields on all zones is the goal, not just cost reduction in some zones. You’ll have to do your homework to figure out how much sophistication and results these different models have behind them.

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