You can’t save your way to prosperity – says rice producer Jonathan Ashlock of Waldenburg, Ark. “When variable rate fertility first became available, everybody said it was going to save you money. We found out fast that it’s not a money saving thing – it’s a money making thing.”
Ashlock says variable rate fertility makes him money in several ways: Applying the right amount of fertilizer where it is needed, making yields uniform across the field and increasing yields.
“I can’t justify applying 300 pounds of potash on every acre,” he says. “However, I can afford to put 300 pounds on 20 acres in a 115-acre field, 200 on half of it and 150 on the remainder.
“Also, before we started variable rating our fertilizer, we watched the yield bounce up and down on our yield monitors in our combines,” he explains. “We saw yield variances of 15 to 30 bushels from one end of the field to the other. Now our less productive spots are yielding closer to the rest of the field. Additionally, the crop itself is more uniform, which helps us better time applications, such as fungicides and sodium chlorate. Our rice is now more consistent across the field; it has less dips and rank rice and spindly rice.”
In addition to seeing more uniform yields across the field, Ashlock is seeing higher yields.
“We were putting out small doses of fertilizer on our gumbo like everybody else, and our yields started falling off,” he says. “We have a good, leveled farm west of Waldenburg that used to average 180 to 190 bushels. Over the years, it fell to 150 bushels. After the first season of variable rate fertility, it was back up to 175.”
Uses A Consultant-Designed Program
Ashlock has been variable rating his phosphate, potassium and lime for a couple of years. He watched variable rate technology on other farms and decided it was the way to go on his operation.
“Two years ago, I asked Ritter Agribusiness if they had anybody pulling contract grid samples, and they recommended Field Concepts, a division of Strike Zone Ag, who started pulling our samples that fall,” Ashlock says.
Field Concepts is a consultant-designed program that provides site-specific grid sampling and variable rate prescriptions for dealers, consultants and growers. Field Concepts’ benefits include expertise on software and equipment purchases; customizable equation writing; support in equipment and software set-up; and fast, reliable in-field tech support.
“Field Concepts has the manpower and equipment to respond quickly to our needs,” Ashlock says. “They also provide great tech support. You can call them and, normally, they answer on the first call; if not, they’ll call right back. They’re very conscientious, knowledgeable and will do whatever’s necessary to take care of you.”
All of Ashlock’s fields are now grid sampled. This Arkansas grower says grid sampling and the resulting precise fertility recommendations are efficient and economical. Ashlock and one of his partners apply fertilizer themselves with their own 6203 TerraGator.
“It’s amazing what you see when you apply the fertilizer yourself,” he says. “Some areas have not received phosphate for two years. I talked to our crop consultant, Eddy Cates, who explained that some places won’t ever call for any because the ground is so much better, and the phosphate has built up there. You’ll never get the fields built up to where they won’t need anything, but you can make them better than what they were.”
Variable rate fertility has benefited Ashlock’s operation by making him money. “We previously applied plenty of fertilizer, but now we’re putting it out exactly where it needs to go,” he says.
For more information about Field Concepts, call (877) 336-8262 or go to www.strikezoneag.com.
Information for this article was provided by Field Concepts.