Variable Rate (VR) Technology & Machinery Systems

Tractor on duty

Machinery systems in precision agriculture is a broad topic that includes different systems and technologies for precision control and application of crop inputs (seed, chemical and fertilizer). When properly calibrated and utilized with GPS guidance and automatic steering, these systems aid in more efficient application of crop inputs, improve application accuracy and uniformity of crop inputs across the field, and increase machine and field efficiency by minimizing application errors as well as saving inputs and time during field operations.

Variable rate application (VRA) of crop inputs optimizes the distribution of fertilizer, lime, seed, water, etc., within a field to maximize yield potential and minimize nonpoint source pollution. VRA precisely matches crop inputs with soil or crop requirements across a field, which increases economic and environmental sustainability. VRA is achieved either by using a prescription map or by using sensors to measure crop/soil properties and a rate controller on application equipment such as a sprayer, fertilizer spreader or center pivot to vary the amount of product.

Variable rate technology (VRT) is the hardware that enables VRA. VRA is widely adopted by U.S. growers and most commonly used to vary fertilizer, lime and seeding rates based on a grid or zone-based management practices. In addition to technologies, the proper maintenance and setup of equipment and control systems on machinery systems is just as critical as the benefits of advanced technologies.