Is Variable Rate Seeding that Change

Is Variable Rate Seeding that “Change”
Jared Tabor, Seed Specialist, Stewartville (507) 251-3914

Right now-at this very moment-there are over 7 billion humans on Earth. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. To sustain them all, we’ve taken 40 percent of the planet’s total landmass and turned it into cornfields and almond orchards, cattle ranches and orange groves, all to churn out the cereals, produce, and meat that feed humanity. Unfortunately, that’s left us in a bit of a bind. The world population is expected to grow to 9.6 billion by 2050, and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), if we want to avoid mass malnutrition, we’re going to have to increase our food production by 70 percent by 2050. The problem is most of the land we can work for food is already being cultivated. That means we’re going to have to make some large-scale changes to how we farm. 

As I sit here and continue to write this article I can‘t help but think about different changes that a grower might make to increase their crop production while still farming the same ground. One particular change that keeps entering my mind is variable rate seeding. It seems like common sense right?

According to Monsanto Learning Center, “Corn growers and university agronomists generally agree that a seeding rate of around 33,000 seeds/acre (spa) is necessary to produce 180 to 190 bu/acre. A rate of about 38,000 spa can produce 240 to 250 bu/acre, and a population of 42,000 to 43,000 spa has the potential to produce 300 bu/acre. They also recognize that some fields and some portions of otherwise highly productive fields are capable of producing no more than 100 bu/acre and the seeding rate in those fields or management zones should be reduced to 18,000 to 24,000 spa. ”Adjusting seeding populations to variable soil conditions can definitely improve overall field productivity.  The key to making this all work is to discover specific management zones and determine which VRS rate will work for that particular zone. By reducing seeding rates on the less productive areas growers can lower their risk of losing money while still potentially producing more in that particular zone.”

To develop a VRS plan, growers should compile field-by-field records, including:

  • A minimum of 3 years of yield data, two of which are corn, with an average yield of 120 bu/acre or greater.
  • Field coverage must be 85% or greater.
  • Grower provides a target yield based on fertility program.

Soil Data Recommendations:

  • Sampling resolution should be 3 acres or less and referenced to a grid.
  • Depth of sample should be 0-6 inches or 0-8 inches.
  • Recommended soil test data includes: organic matter (OM), cation exchange capacity (CEC), water pH, buffer pH (if pH is < 6.8), potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium.

As you continue to plan for the 2017 cropping season, take a few minutes to think about Variable Rate Seeding. It might be that “Change” you’re looking for to maximize crop production. If you have questions don’t hesitate to call your local Progressive Ag Center agronomist/seed specialist. Thank you for your business. 



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