SoilOptix® Blog

Variable Rate Technology in Agriculture – A Powerful Advancement 

Variable Rate Technology in agriculture uses data and automation to apply fertilizer to protect the crops and seeds and helps with the irrigation water at different locations. Farmers won’t need to change the application rates. Variable Rate Technology in agriculture also focuses on different areas of crop production. This includes the application of pesticides, herbicides, lime gypsum, and other common crop nutrients. It detects weeds and diseased crops and helps with seeding. Now, the question is, what can be applied through Variable Rate Technology in Agriculture? Any input a farmer or a grower applies to their crop through the production cycle can be applied through Variable Rate Technology in Agriculture.

The applications are as follows:

  • Variable Rate Fertilizer (VRF)

The VRF system allows the growers to vary the amount of fertilizer applied through a field, responding to specific soil conditions and crop needs. Like most variable rate technology, variable rate fertilizers are mostly used among soybeans and corn row crop farmers. Did you know? Approximately 60% of U.S. corn and soybean farmers have adopted the variable fertilizer rate technology in Agriculture. Variable-rate fertilizers are most commonly used with nitrogen fertilizer applications, and the same technology can be used with other macronutrients crucial for crop growth.

  • Variable Rate Seeding (VRS)

It has become possible to transform the seeding drills into variable rate application (VRA) sensors by attaching a motor or gearbox that varies the rate of seed while the farmer drives through the field. Therefore, it allows growers to stop using traditional flat rate seeding techniques. Instead, now they can vary the number of seeds depending on the results of soil test, yield maps and plant population. Thus, it helps to increase the productivity within a field.

  • Variable Rate Weed Control

Farmers can control the amount of weed to be applied more precisely through variable rate technology in agriculture. Thus, it saves farmers more money by reducing the overall amount of herbicides and improves the yield outcome. It also ensures that the crops get the accurate amount of water and nutrients without weed pressure. Previously, a map-based VRT system was used depending on the historical data of weed infestation in the field. Currently, weed controlling is done in real-time with remote sensing data obtained through satellite/drone images. It helps to identify the areas of weed pressure occurring throughout the season.

  • Variable Rate Irrigation

Speaking of the most recent development in variable rate technology in agriculture, variable rate irrigation must be mentioned. In a variable rate irrigation system, the irrigation infrastructure is enabled with automation capabilities and informed with real-time data through remote sensing (either by remote imagery, ground sensors or weather sensors). Thus, it allows the irrigation system to automatically apply more or less water based on the moisture levels at specific field areas. The commonly used variable rate irrigation is in the center pivot irrigation. Variable rate irrigation is also available in other forms of irrigation, like drip irrigation systems and micro-sprinkler systems.

In Conclusion

Accurate data is crucial to successfully use variable rate technology. If data is incorrect or missing, the VRA shall not work at optimum levels. Thus, it will be harmful to crop production. For instance, farmers will apply more water or fertilizer where it’s not needed. Therefore, Variable Rate Technology in Agriculture and farm management systems go hand in hand. The farm management software collects, processes, and analyzes the data that enables the VRT systems to work in the best possible way.

To start this process, contact the experts at SoilOptix® to get the most detailed soil property maps of your field to use as a baseline dataset for your Variable Rate Applications.