Another Piece of the Puzzle

The Puzzle from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Keith Byerly

by Keith Byerly

Over the last few weeks, I’ve talked about variability a lot. I have talked about digital and visual record keeping to identify our variability, and I have talked about how intensive sampling is an important part of identifying the causes of this variability. I even used this space to discuss how variable rate fertilizer application plays into the whole scheme of things. But after our discussion on Variable rate application a few weeks ago, I got one question from some of you that I need to address.

The question I get a lot is how are the tools like Encirca, Climate, etc. going to affect how we approach Variable Rate Fertility in the future. One of the reasons that your trusted advisor (FSA) needs to be an integral part of your fertility program is because, at the end of the day, flat rate application is a thing of the past. Variable Rate Application and the right rate in the right spot are becoming more the norm every year. But, with that comes challenges, and one of the biggest challenges of variable rate application comes down to what machine we have available to spread our fields. There is a combination of two things that make up the reason the machine matters so much.


First of all, every machine has a minimum rate that it can apply. Whether it is liquid, or dry, the combination of rate plus speed comes into play when it comes to a minimum rate. Regardless it’s a Dry Air Machine with metering wheels, a Dry spinner with a belt, or a liquid machine; everything has a minimum RPM at which it runs smoothly. Too slow and the rate jumps because things are barely open. This is also true on the top end, the opening in which the fertilizer has to go through is only so big, meaning there is always a limit. The Lower the min, the lower the max, and the greater the maximum, the higher the minimum. When we are using liquid, this problem is expanded further because of pressure and opening size. It’s not an accident that there are nine different sizes of most every spray nozzle or orifice.

Trust me; nothing is more frustrating as an operator than running in 1st gear because the max rate is too high.


Then the other reason that recs need to be local is that machines have different capabilities. If you have a recommendation for 11-52-0, Potash, Pel-Lime, and Zinc, and your local machine only has the capabilities to apply 2 or 3 products, you are going to have to cut a product or pay for another application trip across the field. This difference is usually associated with our machine color, Red Air machines can apply two main products, plus a micro, while a yellow machine often has four bins. So locally adjusting recs for what we can put out with the machine is an important factor as well.

And so for your trusted advisor, knowing this information as they set up your fields for dispatch is important for getting the right machine on the right acre as well.

Then we start into the next generation of prescriptions like what Mike talked about in the Reachout this week with Avail. Our ability to use treated and untreated products on specific acres to manage your investments and maximize returns again falls to our ability to have the right machine on your acres.

With that, my thought for the day is this. The decision to use variable rate technology is always smart, but it looks even smarter when we involve local decision making in the process. The ability to make sure the “tweaks” to a program work for you is a slam dunk. Talking with your local FSA about these things leads to greater success for everyone. Now is the time to make sure we are getting the sampling done so we can apply the best prescription to your field for you.