By Carroll Smith
When brothers Curtis and Hunter Miller and Hunter’s son Clayton made the switch last year to a variable rate fertility program, they decided to use it on all of their 1,200 corn acres as well as their 1,300 soybean acres.
“We did it to save money and to make more yield. That’s making money both ways,” explains Curtis, who farms sandy, precision-leveled, furrow-irrigated ground near Caraway, Ark. “We wanted to improve our bottom line. We talked with producers who are already using variable rate, and they really like the results.
“We called Field Concepts – a division of Strike Zone Ag. Their variable rate technology people sat down with us to map out and name all our fields. Later in the fall of 2009 after we harvested our crop, they immediately came out and grid sampled our fields, which took about a month. They gave us a thick binder with soil maps on all our fields and the recommended variable rates according to the crop – corn, soybeans and cotton. The recommended rates are good for three years.”
“Field Concepts’ variable rate prescriptions are really accurate,” Curtis says. “If a 40-acre field needs so much P and K, the applicator loads up exactly what it calls for and, when he’s finished applying, it’s right on the money. We try to fertilize our corn ground first; we put out the fertilizer before we hip, usually in January or February. Then, we run a bedder roller behind it. It’s been great for us because Field Concepts takes care of the variable rate program.”
Field Concepts is a consultant-designed program that provides site-specific grid sampling and variable rate prescriptions for dealers, consultants and growers. Field Concepts’ benefits include expertise on software and equipment purchases, customizable equation writing, support in equipment and software set-up and fast, reliable in-field tech support.
Money Well Spent
The Field Concepts program has already saved money for the Miller brothers, who variable rate their phosphorus and potassium. “The program costs $7.50 per acre, which we divide by three since the recommendations are good for three years,” Curtis says. “So even after subtracting $2.50 per acre for the program, we still came out with a $25 an acre savings on our corn.”
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Variable Rates Hit The Spot
• The Millers used variable rate fertility
• They realized more uniform corn yields and
• Their lime also is applied according to variable
The Millers have already realized more uniform yields across their corn fields. “The grain monitor on our combine shows that the fields do not fluctuate as much in yield as they have in the past,” Curtis says. “We think variable rate fertility has paid off already on the weaker spots in the fields. In addition to a more uniform yield across the whole field, the crop itself benefits from being uniform in growth. It makes our job of timing fungicides and other applications easier.”
In addition to phosphorus and potassium, the Millers also variable rate their lime. They probably had four fields out of 50 that called for lime. “The variable rate on lime works great; if we have a 40-acre field, we might treat just eight or 10 acres.”
Variable rate fertility is just one component of a successful corn production program implemented by the Millers. However, it is a factor that not only enhances their total program, it also saves them money. “We feel saving money is making money,” Curtis says. “Our fertilizer bill has dropped a lot because of it.”
Field Concepts contributed information for this article. Visit www.strikezoneag.com.