April 26, 2018 | By: | Technology

Right Product, Right Acres. How do you Rate?

Lately we’ve been talking a lot about how you can leverage the power of technology on your farm to impact your bottom line. We’re breaking some tried and true practices into baby steps to help you get up and running. Today we’re going to cover how to set the right rates of products in your zones. If you missed my previous article on how to use different maps to layer information and create variable rate zones in your field, check it out here.

Why establish rates at all?

It’s critical to dial your zones in so they represent the different variation within your fields, but it’s just as important to make sure you put the right rates of product in these zones. Too much product in low producing zones means money out the window. Too little in higher producing acres and you’ve sold yourself short. So how do you come up with the right rates? I have a few recommendations.

How to get started:

1. Establish zones for the season

Establishing zones is key to being efficient with your inputs. Learn more about how to establish and implement zones in your field here.

2. Apply a yield goal to each zone

Yield goals for each zone can really help you plan for your inputs. In your top performing zone, plan for a 10% increase from that field’s average. In your lowest preforming zone, drop your yield goal by 10%. After establishing the top and bottom zones, use your field average as a guide to apply yield goals to the rest of the zones for the field.

Let’s look at an example (see below photo) from our farm in Prosper, ND.

On this field, the average yield over the past 3 corn crops is about 175 bu/A. The plus and minus 10% would give us about 195 and 155 respectively. This results in our 4 zones becoming 195, 185, 175, and 155. You can now use this zone map and yield goals as a baseline for the rest of your inputs.

Using Variable Rate Zones to Yield Goals

It’s important to note that rates will vary by region. The range and rates may be different for you depending on your location and farming practices.

3. Applying Yield Seeding Goals to Rates

Now that you’ve established yield goals for your zones, we can apply the same approach to determining the most efficient seeding rate. You’ll use the same methodology:

  1. Determine your average seeding rate
  2. Add 10% to highest yielding zones
  3. Subtract 10% from lowest yielding zones
  4. Use your field average as a guide to apply yield goals to the rest of the zones for the field.

Note, you can adjust rates depending on your ground conditions so your range could be more or less depending on how variant you want to be.

For our farm our average seeding rate is about 34,000 seeds/acre. When we apply the plus and minus 10% fill in the zones just as we did with our yield goal we come up with rates of 37,000; 34,000; 32,000; and 30,000.

4. Check Strips

A good way to check your work and understand if the rates you established are effective on your farm is to use check strips. Here’s the best way to get started:

  1. Insert two strips of your high rate and your low rate
  2. Make sure your strips go through the most variable parts of your field
  3. Compare high versus low in all field conditions

Check Strips in Variable Rate planning

Remember, the numbers we’ve been using are relevant to our farm and from research we have done over the years. You’ll want use your farm’s data to get the most accurate plan for your acres.

Also, we focused on seeding rate throughout this article but these same concepts can be used to establish fertilizer rates as well.

In this article I used Climate FieldView to establish zones and apply rates. If you don’t yet have a way to capture your farm’s data, we can help.

Stay tuned for future articles where I’ll walk you through how to best use the technology that’s out there to make smart choices on your farm. In the meantime, if you’ve got questions about establishing rates or other technology related topics, drop me a line at or give me a call at (866) 481-7333.

Nolan Berg, Precision Systems Agronomist

Nolan Berg

If you say “jump”, Nolan Berg won’t just ask “how high”… he’ll show you. Nolan pole vaulted for NDSU’s track team (his personal best is 16’ 2”), and his drive and determination carry over into his ever-evolving position as Precision Systems Agronomist. With a master’s degree in Plant Sciences and tenure as track team captain, Nolan is a great fit to lead our precision ag activities, work with zone creation and UAV imagery, and assist with the seed increase program for new genetics. In his downtime, Nolan enjoys hunting, mountain biking, running, and photography.

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