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Can variable rate planting pay?

This question has come up a lot to me lately – many farmers are trading planters, and the new one has hydraulic drives on it.  More accurately, the question is “can I do variable rate planting?”  The short answer is yes, but I then follow-up with a return question of what do you want to base it off of?

This is the big one, as there are just so many answers out there.  Companies like Precision Planting have made it very simple to do variable rate planting right from the cab of the tractor, but I would sooner try to do my taxes from the cab of my tractor than write a variable rate prescription and feel comfortable that it will accomplish what I want.

So many layers of data, and so many possibilities for how to write the prescription.  I am a bit sceptical of the soil type maps that are available.  They seem to line up pretty well in some of the fields I work with, not so well in others.  In my opinion, a yield map contains some of the best information available, and multiple years of yield maps can tell a very powerful story.

I won’t even try to claim that I have a magic formula that will work for everyone.  The only advice I can give you is to know what you are basing your prescription on, and make sure that it will have the results that you want.  I also recommend to include check strips, so we have a way to measure what we did on next year’s “report card” or yield map.

I am very interested in hearing what your thoughts are on this subject.  What is the best way to do variable rate planting???

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