Is VRT Right for YOU?

James Banahan

James Banahan

“I’m too small of a farmer.”, “I’m not sure if soil sampling really tells me anything.”, or “I have been pleased with my production, why would I need to do anything different?”  These are common responses that we hear when producers are asked about UFC’s AcreEdge Advantage variable rate technology (VRT) program.  Chances are that you have used, or at least heard of, a precision program based around soil fertility in the past.  Our mantra in the UFC Agronomy department is to bring 5 additional bushels per acre to your farm every year, and we believe by putting the right amount of fertilizer on the right acre will result in both increased yield and a better return on your investment.

Take a look at the example below:  The image on the left was a typical composite sample that was pulled resulting in a blanket recommendation of MAP fertilizer.  The image on the right is one of our SAMZ maps and recommended rates to apply MAP.


This is the same field with the samples pulled just weeks apart.  Below are the average recommendations from the different soil sample zones comparing the differences in costs associated with each program:


For the comparison of these actual fields, we are only looking at Phosphorus recommendations for 2014.   The AcreEdge Advantage program delivers a savings of $6.90 per acre, based on the current price for 11-52-0, by applying the proper rate of fertilizer in each area of the field to optimize your return on investment.


The image above illustrates the actual fertility analysis of the soil samples collected that resulted in the above recommendations.

Many fields across our UFC territory have variability in them; it doesn’t matter if you are a 400 acre dry land producer or a 4500 acre irrigated producer.  With the AcreEdge Advantage Program, at the end of the day, we are focused on increasing yields and maximizing every dollar invested in fertility on your acres to achieve the greatest economic return for the producers we work with.  We can’t change Mother Nature or the fluctuating grain markets, but we can control the controllable by applying fertilizer where it is needed.

Taking another look at the economics of fertilizer costs with today’s falling grain prices, you may not be aware that locking in fertilizer inputs for your 2014 soybean and corn crop will result in lower total costs and require fewer 2014 bushels sold to pay for it.  Surprised?

In 2013 we had a producer enroll in our AcreEdge Advantage program to fertilize his dryland soybean acres with a goal of building up his phosphorus levels.  His average composite sampled P1 level was 14ppm, which is very low.  Optimum P1 levels are 25-30 ppm.  The recommended rate for a broadcast build program using MAP was 104# actual P/acre.  This is based on a 4 year build program.  The AcreEdge Advantage build program using MAP ranged from 40#-80#-104# of actual P/acre, with an average recommended rate of 94# actual P per acre based on 5 different zones.  The broadcast rate of 104# actual P treated with Avail cost $82.22/acre.  The AcreEdge Advantage average cost/acre at 94# actual P treated with Avail was $74.32/acre, netting savings of $7.90/acre.  This field yielded 65 bu./acre and grossed $780/acre.  Based on this production and a current cash price of $12/bu., it would only take 6.19 bushels of soybeans to pay for the AcreEdge Advantage fertilizer program compared to 6.85 bushels to pay for the broadcast application.

Projecting the same application program for 2014 (using MAP treated with Avail at current retail prices) results in a cost of $69.72/acre for the broadcast application – or 6.3 bushels of beans sold to pay for it using a November 2014 market price of $11/bushel. The AcreEdge Advantage program would only require 5.73 bushels to pay for the fertilizer and application cost of $63.03/acre, producing a net savings of $6.69/acre.

The economics for applying phosphorus on corn acres results in even more significant differences for 2014 input costs.  An actual customer field we will use for this example had a P1 level of 31 ppm based on a composite soil sample.  A 140 bu./acre dryland yield goal resulted in a recommendation for 71# actual P/acre treated with Avail.  The AcreEdge Advantage recommendations, after being zone sampled into 5 regions, ranged from 0#-52#-65#-78# of actual P – with the average rate recommended being 29# actual P/acre treated with Avail.

The economics of this field resulted in the broadcast application of 71# P treated with Avail costing $56.13/acre versus the average AcreEdge Advantage rate of 29# P treated with Avail costing $22.92/acre for the 2013 crop year. Using the current corn price of $4.10/bu, the AcreEdge Advantage program netted a savings of $33.21/acre!  It would take 13.6 bushels of corn to pay for the blanket application compared to only 5.6 bushels of corn to pay for the AcreEdge Advantage application.  The same application rates for 2014 crop inputs would result in the broadcast application treated with Avail costing $46.31/acre versus the AcreEdge Advantage application at $18.92/acre. Again, using the November 2014 corn price of $4.29 per bushel, it would take 10.79 bushels to pay for the blanket application of MAP treated with Avail, whereas only 4.4 bushels of corn are needed to pay for the AcreEdge Advantage applied MAP treated with Avail.

These results are based on two different fields across our very vast and variable Southern Region.  The last few years’ grain prices have helped support our gross profit per acre.  The importance of AcreEdge Advantage, especially with falling grain prices, is getting the right amount of fertilizer on the right acre.  This enhances our ability to produce the best yield.  We don’t have any influence on the fluctuation of the grain prices, but we can impact our yield production to help mitigate our input costs.

Ask your local UFC Field Sales Agronomist to share our weekly Farmer Economics report with you that outlines these facts in greater detail and learn how the AcreEdge Advantage program can positively impact your bottom line in 2014.