Variable Rate Nitrogen. Conceptually, it makes a ton of sense: different parts of our fields have different yield potentials so, therefore, have different N needs. It’s pretty easy to wrap your brain around the idea, but emotionally, the waters aren’t so clear. The questions begin to creep in. What if we’ve underestimated? What if our assumptions are wrong? What if this fails?
There’s a lot of fear surrounding the change to VRN technology, and it’s not unfounded. Thus far, those leading its charge have never quite settled on the exact process of yield determination. There’s yet to be a precise prescription of what data is necessary to be able to say, “This part needs this, and that part needs that.”
However, I don’t need a crystal ball to say that VRN is a necessary step into the future. I can say this with certainty because I know that the sustainability of our industry, profits, and environment depends on us becoming better managers of nitrogen.
Given the necessity of improving our management and the fear surrounding the changes that come with doing so, the Advanced Cropping Systems team at Central Valley Agronomy has been at the task of developing the parameters, protocol, and process necessary to determine yield potential. And we’re feeling pretty darn confident about it.
So now we need some players.
Because a successful outcome depends very strongly on the quality of input, we’ve put some criteria in place to help you decide if your operation is ready for a new adventure. We’re looking for growers with:
A sound fundamental and prescriptive program for fertilizer beside nitrogen
Years of yield data
A thorough understanding of the factors that impact crop removal rate, including things like credits for organic matter, soil nitrates, and the influence of previous crops
Direction as to which operation to use a VR application with and what that timeframe looks like
Equipment capable of executing such an application
This adventure isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. We put this criteria in place to reduce the risk of a high failure rate. It’s meant to protect both the growers that step forward and the process itself from failure.
Of course, as I’ve already said, we’re diving into some muddy waters here. This is change, and change is scary. So, in addition to the logistics outlined in the criteria, embracing VRN requires some emotional fortitude. It’s certain to be nerve-wracking, and you’ll need some curiosity and a commitment to innovation to bridge those waters. Also, because the process is new, it’s yet a framework—the details need to be filled in locally, and perhaps with some trial.
It’s into the future we go, friends. We’re not requiring you to come with us, but if you are, step forward.