Benefits of Variable Rate Planting

Mar 24, 2022

Kory Zeigler

UFC Agronomy Sales, Mt. Ayr
With the 2022 planting season right around the corner, it is time to visit with your agronomist about variable rate planting prescriptions. Variable rate planting is a great way to get the most out of your seed investment and maximize yield potential on every acre. There is not a “one size fits all” planting population for any hybrid or variety for every acre which gives us several benefits to variable rate planting.

As a field varies, we want to change the population that best suites the type of soil being planted into and the hybrid or variety being planted. Most of the time we will split a field into three zones: A zone, B zone, and C zone. A zones are the most productive acres of a field, B zones are the average acres, and the C zones are the less productive acres. When planting corn, we increase the population in productive soils (A zones) and decrease the population in less productive soils (C zones) with the base rate being the average soil (B zones). This allows us to vary our seed cost by spending more money where we anticipate a higher yield and less money where we anticipate a lower yield which helps gain a return on investment (ROI) on the entire field.

With soybeans, the goal with variable rate planting is more about standability, light interception, and competition. On productive acres we will decrease the population, and in less productive acres we will increase population (opposite of corn). On productive acres (A zone), soybeans can grow too tall if planted to thick and fall over depending on the variety. Decreasing the population allows the soybeans to grow larger stems and improves standability as well as decreases the amount of competition each plant has thus leading to higher yields. In less productive soil (C zone), we increase the population. In less productive soil soybeans tend to put on less vegetative growth, so by increasing population we can maximize light interception which is important for soybean yields. In addition, by having more plants per acre we tend to get more pods per acre which will lead to a higher yield compared to planting an average rate in less productive soil. With soybeans we spend less money in the A zones and more in the C zones, but we still able to obtain better ROI across the entire field.

Every field has variability, and variable rate planting allows you to vary your population to achieve the highest ROI for that acre. At UFC, our agronomists can build variable rate seeding recommendations based on the variability of your soil and hybrids/varieties you are planting. If you have any questions regarding variable rate planting, contact your local UFC agronomist.


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