Resolve to Try VR Corn Planting in 2018

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The precision ag world revolves around “variable rate” (VR) applications, which is typically where you unravel areas in fields where you can save input costs. Because we’re in our fourth year of low commodity prices, it’s a great time to see if variable rate seeding can increase your bottom line.

The first step is breaking you field into production zones, which should be managed differently based on their production potential. I’ve discussed the different data layers that can go into this decision, so I won’t cover it in this article.

The next step comes down to picking the right product and adjusting your seeding rates. Using Latham’s FieldXFieldSM service, we can determine the best hybrid for each situation. Choose a hybrid that will perform well on the majority of soil types in each field. If a field has uniform soils, then you need to use your historic knowledge of disease or other problems. Don’t pick a racehorse hybrid for a challenging field and wonder why it didn’t respond unless you plan on protecting it with a fungicide application, if necessary.

After you match the hybrid to your field, look at the ear flex noted in tables below the hybrids in our 2018 Product Guide. A Semi-Flex (SF) is usually your best option for a VR seeding application. If you’re looking at a Semi-Determinate (SD) hybrid, don’t count it out. All hybrids have some flex, but the SF will not give up as much yield in those lighter soils as the SD. A full Determinate ear would not be a good choice as it will give up the most yield if stressed by lighter soil conditions.

Be open to adjusting seeding rates more than 1,500 to 2,000 seeds per acre (spa). I normally like to see a swing of 3,000 to 4,000 spa when you’re trying VR seeding. Every soil type/hybrid combination has a different seeding rate sweet spot, so don’t expect to figure it out on your first try. When you pull the population down from 32,000 to 25,000 spa, plant spacing widens up another 2 inches and that dramatically changes the “competition” between plants. Suggested seeding rates can also be found in our product guide.

*Disclaimer: Seed placement and precision equipment are very important. You won’t see an advantage if your planter plants more doubles and skips than it does well-placed seed. When you lower populations on lighter soils, each corn plant needs enough space so it’s not crowded when it comes to its roots and canopy.

Variable rate seeding may provide that additional boost to your bottom line by bumping up yields in your top-yielding areas. Instead the focus is on lowering seed costs and maintaining yield on those areas that never seem to meet yield expectations. Experimenting on your farm is the best way to find an answer to this question. If you have the technology on your planter, make 2018 the year you give it a try! I’ll gladly help where I can, so feel free to give me a call.