From the Ground Up: Variable Rate Fertilizing and Precision Agriculture

Published: Jan. 9, 2020 at 8:13 AM CST
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Precision agriculture allows farmers to use new technologies to help them increase crop yields and hopefully profitability by lowering inputs like land, water, fertilizer, herbicides, and insecticides. One of the tools available is a practice called variable rate fertilizing. Walter Vajdak farms in Burleson County.

“We have this one particular little farm here that has mixed land. One end is sandy and the other end is heavy land and in between there, there’s a little bit of mix so we thought that would be a real good area to try this variable rate application of fertilizer.”

This is the first time Vajdak has used this technology.

“We never know what and how much fertilizer to put on the place because the soil tests come back so varied on the place, so we thought it would be a good place to try it and we are going to try it. They took the soil samples here a few weeks ago and they came back and we discussed how we need to do it and what we need to do.”

Every trip made across the field costs money.

“We’ll probably have to make two trips across the field with the fertilizer truck to get out the amount of phosphate and pot ash that’s required for this particular field. And then we have to add some lime to it which we have to do not on the whole field, just part of it required lime. So we did that in a separate operation.”

The hope is that he’ll save money in some parts of the field while he’s spending more in other parts.

“In some areas where you were over-applying fertilizer, now you can use that to compensate for the places that require more. And when you average it out it won’t cost you as much as you think it might.”

And even with perfect fertility, to make a good uniform yield, Vajdak needs favorable weather.

“We’re hoping it will work out. We’re going to try it and if it works good here, we’ll try it more.”