Corn School: Would variable rate planting fit your farm?

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It’s time for corn growers to take a hard look at variable rate planting.

That was agronomist Pat Lynch’s message to growers as they watched variable rate planters in action at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show (COFS) in Woodstock, Ontario.

In this episode of RealAgriculture’s Corn School, Lynch says the ability to adjust seed population while planting on-the-go is a “no brainer” for many Ontario farmers. “We know when we go down the field that there are great areas where we should be dropping 36,000 plants or more. And then you get into lighter areas or heavy areas that never yield well. That is so typical across Ontario,” says Lynch, who adds that high populations in challenging environments can actually decrease yield.

Only four planter manufacturers demonstrated variable rate planters at the COFS demo. “That’s because not everybody is buying into the concept yet,” says Lynch. However, he believes when farmers do the math on their own farms they’ll realize the potential return on investment. “For larger farmers with variable land it’s a no brainer… you get the extra revenue from higher yields plus the cost savings of not over-planting in areas that won’t take that higher population.”

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Lynch also feels variable rate planting is a simple way for smaller growers to plug into the benefits of precision farming. “With all the planters here today, a farmer can take their yield map, set up their own population planting grid and change it on the go.”

“The companies know that if they want this technology to take off, it’s got to be user-friendly and it certainly is,” says Lynch, who notes that return on investment will depend on farm size, field variability, and several other factors. He recommends growers work with their agronomist to help identify acres across their farms where population changes could impact yield and input costs. “It’s an exercise that any producer could do,” notes Lynch.

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