I am always pushing myself to do better whether I am learning something new, writing a new herbicide program, or giving a fertilizer recommendation. For me, being average is not an option. With this mindset, I often wonder why so many growers rely on the average yield to fertilize for the next year’s crop. Isn’t there a desire to improve from the previous season? Is average good enough?
The average yield is an easy way to measure how a field performs as a whole; however, I feel it isn’t the best choice when it comes to deciding next year’s fertilizer rates. The average is made up of a wide range of yields that can vary by over 100bu/acre. With a straight fertilizer rate, you generally are under applying fertilizer in high producing areas while over-applying fertilizer in low performing regions. This isn’t efficient from an agronomic or economic standpoint; it becomes a waste of money. The solution is to put fertilizer where it matters most, at a rate that is effective both agronomically and economically.
This trying growing season is a perfect example of the value of variable rate fertilizer applications. A beautiful, even stand of corn was few and far between this year. Crops were spotty with some areas bare altogether. It doesn’t make sense to apply excess fertilizer in these areas when very little nutrients are being removed.
Variable-rate fertilizer applications have many different configurations and can grow complex quickly. Livestock manure changes the complex nature of a fertilizer program even further. Manure may not be consistent from the first load to the last load and many variables can affect the field application rate. Although a very valuable source of fertilizer, we are finding that in many cases manure does not have enough nutrients to adequately replace what has been removed from big crop yields.
ProVantage takes into consideration nutrients from a manure application to create a supplemental variable rate fertilizer prescription for complete confidence in our fertility plan. With our ProVantage toolbox, we can effectively track soil tests to verify what we are seeing through the collected data. This helps ensure decisions are based on data and not emotion.
Creating data-based prescriptions in a diverse field environment is complicated; this is where ProVantage and our agronomic experience come into play. Many ProVantage growers are using yield data to establish management zones to get better than average performance out of their fields. Different management practices are utilized in these zones, such as seeding and fertilizer rates, to maximize the production potential. Performance expectations in these areas also change. The goal is to push the highly productive areas, maintain the average, and manage the lower performing. Utilizing the yield data to develop these zones helps remove the emotion from the decision making: yield data does not lie.
If you are looking to better your operation from the year before, variable rate fertilizer applications are a great place to start both from cost-efficiency and nutrient effectiveness standpoint. ProVantage is your tool if you are looking to dig deeper into your data and implement a successful strategy from your findings.