Why are farmers gradual to undertake variable-rate fertilizer expertise?

Variable-rate fertilizer (VRF) software has caught the curiosity of a number of farmers over the previous 15 years. Nonetheless, the extent of adoption of VRF has been slower than anticipated.

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Why are farmers gradual to undertake variable-rate fertilizer expertise?

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A Fertilizer Canada survey of canola farmers in Western Canada within the fall of 2021 discovered solely 10.2 per cent of growers used VRF software in every of their fields, whereas one other 4.3 per cent used it on a portion of their canola fields, for a complete of 14.5 per cent. A survey of western Canadian wheat farmers discovered that 10.5 per cent used VRF software in every of their fields and 4.2 per cent used VRF software in a few of their wheat fields for a complete of 14.7 per cent.

In 2021, the proportion of canola growers utilizing VRF on all of their fields was down barely from 11.8 per cent in 2020 and 12.2 per cent of growers in 2017. The 2021 share of wheat growers utilizing VRF on all of their wheat fields was the identical because it was in 2016.

From the 2021 Fertilizer Canada survey, lower than 15 per cent of Prairie farmers are using VRF expertise on some or all of their wheat and canola fields. With the promotion of VRF over the previous 15 years, I had anticipated the next charge of adoption.

Why the gradual adoption charge?

There may be a variety of opinions from farmers as to why they haven’t been in a rush to undertake VRF expertise, which embrace the next:

  • Some growers have used VRF on a trial foundation and felt it didn’t present advantages for his or her farms, or they’d unfavorable experiences with it.
  • Shifting to VRF expertise is seen as an enormous dedication involving further effort and time to make it work. Some growers will not be ready to make that dedication to studying.
  • Adoption of VRF expertise is seen as fairly expensive. Some marvel and query if the funding would offer financial advantages.
  • There may be variation amongst corporations of the providers they supply and the prices, making it a problem for farmers to determine which firm may present one of the best general service and data.
  • Every precision firm has its personal system to develop soil/crop administration zones. Farmers are not sure which corporations may present extra correct soil/crop administration zone maps.
  • Every precision firm has its personal philosophy on learn how to develop fertilizer suggestions for the assorted soil/crop administration zones.
  • VRF expertise is complicated and is continually altering, making it a problem for farmers to maintain present and updated.
  • There may be concern in regards to the lack of technically educated precision suppliers.
  • Some older farmers are reluctant to undertake new, complicated expertise.

What are the potential advantages?

An attention-grabbing remark of the 2021 Fertilizer Canada survey is 63 per cent of wheat growers and nearly 66 per cent of canola growers indicated they used the identical fertilizer program on all of their wheat and canola fields, respectively. This implies appreciable alternatives for farmers to shift to extra exact 4R (proper charge, proper product, proper time, proper placement) fertilizer administration on particular person fields. The adoption of VRF on fields with variable soils and topography must be a severe consideration. Some causes to think about adoption of VRF expertise embrace the next:

  • Optimize crop yield by making use of the suitable fertilizer sort and optimum fertilizer charge on every distinctive soil sort in a area.
  • Fertilizer use effectivity may be elevated on fields with variable soils.
  • With the excessive price of fertilizers, charges may be correctly utilized in every soil administration zone the place a nutrient deficiency is recognized.
  • In some (however not often all) soil administration zones, crop yield may be elevated with optimized nutrient software.
  • In some soil administration zones, fertilizer inputs may be decreased and even eradicated primarily based on soil exams.
  • With optimized fertilizer inputs and 4R fertilizer administration, soil high quality and well being may be improved, together with elevated carbon storage (elevated soil natural matter content material) and decreased greenhouse gasoline emissions.
  • The federal authorities’s On-Farm Local weather Motion Fund supplies monetary help to producers to speed up adoption of helpful administration practices reminiscent of 4R fertilizer administration and VRF expertise for extra sustainable farm practices.

Startup VRF expertise ideas

For those who haven’t tried utilizing VRF expertise, under you’ll discover just a few issues to think about as you get began:

  • On your first yr, choose three or 4 fields you already know have variable soil and/or topography.
  • Interview two or three precision ag corporations that work in your space. Develop a set of interview questions to match corporations’ data, providers and prices. Get detailed data on the next subjects:
  • What providers are offered?
  • Does the agronomist have an expert agrologist (PAg) or licensed crop advisor (CCA) designation with 4R coaching? If not, that could be a concern.
  • Ask the agronomist if they’ve accomplished college programs on subjects reminiscent of soil fertility and fertilizers, and soil classification and mapping. In the event that they haven’t, that could be a concern.
  • What historic data will they use when working with you?
  • How will they develop topography maps, electrical conductivity maps and different soil attribute maps and use historic data to develop soil/crop administration zones?
  • What number of soil administration zones would they sometimes delineate in your fields?
  • How will they do floor truthing to substantiate accuracy of soil/crop administration zone maps?
  • How will soil samples be taken? The place will they be taken? And, what number of might be taken per soil administration zone?
  • Will they GPS find soil sampling websites?
  • Which lab will do the soil evaluation?
  • How will soil evaluation be interpreted for every nutrient and different soil traits?
  • How will fertilizer suggestions be developed for every zone?
  • How will they help with adapting or modifying your area gear to variable-rate apply fertilizers?
  • Will area monitoring be carried out in the course of the rising season?
  • Is climate data knowledge or a climate station offered?
  • How and what knowledge will they acquire and handle? How will they help you on knowledge interpretation?
  • Do they work with any neighbours you already know? If the reply is sure, ask neighbours for opinions and references on the providers offered.
  • Be clear on the providers every supplier will provide, together with prices.
  • Within the first yr or two, attempt to hold issues simple, easy and simple to keep away from changing into overwhelmed.
  • On the finish of every season, be sure that to have a debrief session together with your precision agronomist to assessment what labored and the place adjustments or enhancements are wanted. Ensure to be taught out of your experiences every season to make the next yr extra profitable.

Variable-rate expertise may be complicated. Take time to study and develop into as acquainted as attainable with the expertise. The extra you perceive, the simpler it turns into to work with VRF expertise and to make it work efficiently for you.