Variable RateFertilizer Project
Higher oil prices are driving up the costs of agricultural inputs and putting a strain on the net margins of High Plain producers. DPAC launched a project where owners of four Answer Farms tested all phases of crop production using contemporary variable rate technology with a specific target of cereal grain production.
- Test the in-field technology and net returns associated with the application of fertilizer at different rates depending on fertility of soil by zone and proximity to fragile areas such as sloughs, waterways, etc over several growing seasons
- Design new biomass imaging and data management tools
- Develop new tools for use by agronomists and farmers when they evaluate whether to start using variable rate technologies
While these technologies are common among specialty high-return crops such as potatoes or sugar beets, they are largely untested among either program or non-program cereal crops where the profit/loss margin per acre is much tighter.
The majority of acres grown in the High Plains are cereal crops. Because these crops are grown in fragile ecosystems, the need for new tillage and seeding methods is paramount along with the educational tools needed to assist growers to evaluate these methods on their own farms.
Our research focused on two main questions.
- Do precision ag technologies pay off for producers in this part of the US?
- Will producers adopt the use of these technologies?
The project included 1,760 acres of spring wheat and canola, five answer farms and eight private sector partners. We used soil zone mapping using remote sensing images to create prescriptions maps, variable rate fertilizer applications, and yield mapping.
Overall, we found that there is a potential savings of 10-15% in fertilizer costs using variable rate application methods.