Understanding VRA and VRT: What is Variable Rate Technology and how can I use it on my farm?

March 23, 2022

Planting, seeding, spraying, or spreading – one thing all these tasks have in common is the critical need to manage inputs to get the most out of the resources being used. Overapplication can compromise crop growth and cut into your profits. Underapplication can also be an issue, especially in areas that need fertilizers or chemical applications to encourage top growth and yields. Application accuracy is an area of farming that can’t rely on guesswork and intuition, and fortunately, it no longer has to.

What is Variable Rate Technology in farming?

One great way to hit that sweet spot is by using Variable Rate Technology (VRT). This precision agriculture technology helps farmers apply collected information about their operations to direct the automated and variable application of seeds, fertilizers, and chemical applications to their cropland. VRT decisions and parameters are based on various data gathered from GPS, in-field sensors, and maps of a particular operation. 

What does Variable Rate Application do?

You know that such variations can easily exist in as little as a single field – some areas may need more fertilizer, more herbicidal applications, or even a higher planting density to meet yield expectations. VRT manages that task through Variable Rate Application (VRA), which adjusts application rates, taking out the time-consuming, human-error factor that can occur when these tasks are done manually. More importantly, it can apply this advanced technology to select areas, rows, even single plants within a field. That’s taking things to a new level!

How do I use Variable Rate Application on my farm?

There are two ways to approach VRA. The first is through pre-planned mapping. This approach allows you to see in advance how each field will be approached, taking into account all data before operations start. Real-time VRA relies on sensor data in the field, making automatic adjustments on the fly based on data in the field. Whatever your preference, Trimble has you covered. Pre-operation mapping or prescription programming are great choices, but our GreenSeeker and WeedSeeker 2 technology make real-time decisions based on optical sensor technology, which can measure crop depth and even identify the presence of individual weeds on each pass.

What’s nice about VRT and VRA is that they reduce the juggling that occurs in the field when you’re trying to manage your outputs and manually operate field equipment at the same time. It’s a resource saver, but it also helps reduce the potential for any negative environmental impact.  

What precision ag solutions are used with Variable Rate Technology?

Trimble has pioneered the use of VRT automated flow and application controls, and the great thing about our technologies is that they’re compatible with virtually any brand of tractor or implement you’re currently using. Field-IQ is Trimble’s proprietary crop input control system. It can be installed directly on any implement you’re using, and it easily provides VRA, automatic section control, seed monitoring, and spinner speed control, all from an in-cab display. 

If your implements already have factory fit rates and section controllers, you can easily connect them right into a Trimble display using a Trimble Universal Variable Rate (TUVR) or Serial VR, for third-party protocols. If your operation spans a wide variety of implement brands, that’s no problem either. ISOBUS offers complete native connection ability, even if the implements lack factory-installed ISOBUS.

How will using VRT and VRA help my farm?

An easy way to think of VRT is that of a highly intelligent resource gatekeeper within your operation, which controls waste and conserves input inventory. For example, it eliminates the need to spray the entire field when only specific areas, even specific crop areas, need treatment. It provides a means to control all your flow and application needs, including liquid, seed, anhydrous and granular fertilizer. Your fields get what they need when they need it – leading to healthier fields, stronger plants, and ultimately higher yields. 

VRT also allows you to log your efforts, providing valuable history into the most effective methods for getting the most out of your fields. That’s real data that can help you ensure that the current growing season is at its peak. It also creates a solid, validated prescription for future success in years to come. It’s a degree of control that many farmers appreciate.

If you’re interested in learning more about how VRA and VRT can boost your yields and your overall ROI, connect with your local Trimble reseller to learn more.

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