In general, seed companies suggest a go-slow approach when it comes to adopting variable rate seeding. Officials from seed companies interviewed for this story say they are providing information to growers but are not promoting variable-rate seeding as a preferred practice.

“We want to help growers who want to try this technology, but we are not being promotional about it,” says John Chism, North American services implementation manager for Pioneer. “There is not a ton of data out there on variable-rate seeding. That is one of the reasons for our recommendation to try it on a few fields with the most variability. Put your toe in the water. Use some check strips or blocks to make sure it is working for you.”

To help guide variable-rate seeding decisions, Pioneer has published guidelines on its web site and its “Crop Insights” newsletter. To locate them, search “Pioneer variable-rate seeding” with a Web search engine.

Monsanto has conducted planting population and other trials for several years and now is working with its seed partners and farmers as it pilots a prescriptive ag approach. “We know our customers have made investments in variable-rate seeding technology and we want to help them optimize those investments,” says Kyle Freeman, prescriptive agriculture technical manager for Monsanto. “Our goal is to provide population recommendations for our products that they can use to make VRS [variable rate seeding] successful.”

The company, through its seed partners, provides information about appropriate seeding rates for various yield environments. In 2010, Monsanto began a prescription ag solutions pilot program that it will expand in 2011 to provide planting prescriptions on smart data cards to growers interested in variable-rate seeding. The service will be available through select seed dealers as part of its IntelliSeed program. For more information, conduct a Web search for “Monsanto Prescriptive Ag Solutions.”

Mycogen Seeds provides information on how its hybrids and varieties would perform with variable-rate seeding on a one-on-one basis, says Sean Jordal, customer agronomist for parts of Illinois and Indiana. For most customers in his service area, which is dominated by uniform soils, he doesn’t expect much economic benefit from variable-rate seeding.

“Where there isn’t much variability, there probably are more opportunities for growers to capture those last dollars from other management practices than variable-rate seeding,” he says. “I would rather see a grower paying attention to planting the right hybrid at the right population to maximize profitability.”

Monsanto’s Freeman concurs: “If I look at a situation where a farmer has wide variability within fields, there is a significant opportunity. But there probably isn’t much value on flat black soils that are one yield environment.”


Photo courtesy of Kinze Manufacturing