Variable Rate Nitrogen Application — The Proof Is In The Soil!
27 Jan 2328 min 55 sec

In a previous episode, Kelly Garrett and Mike Evans discussed a lesson they learned the hard way (it cost them yield and money!) about the practice of variable rate “N” application. In this sequel, Mike and Kelly explain the soil reaction and final takeaways from their experiment with flat rate nitrogen versus their standard practice of variable-rate application. The results are remarkable. The proof is in the soil (and the yield monitor). And if you need more encouragement to stop applying your fertilizer at a flat rate, you’ll get it in this episode! 

Presented by AgXplore

00:00 adjusting To the reality the variable rate nitrogen application is good for the crop and good for the ground a few weeks or months ago. We recorded an 00:11 episode about verifying and confirming that indeed variable rate nitrogen application is what you need to do for bigger results bigger 00:20 yields and Kelly and Mike learned this the hard way we're gonna recap that real quickly and then we're going to tell you what we're really learned. We saw it 00:29 from the yield monitor, but now we're seeing it in the soil and after all everything begins and ends and I agriculture with the soil. Welcome to 00:38 extreme mags cutting the curve more than just a podcast. It's the place for insights. You can apply immediately to your farm operation 00:47 for increase success this episode of cutting the curve is brought to you by AG Explorer. With Innovative products that improve fertilizer efficiency 00:56 protect yield and reduce stress. AG explore helps maximize field potential find out how AG Explorer can help you get more out of your crop at 01:05 Ag And now here's your host Damien Mason. Agrees and welcome to another fantastic episode of Extreme Ice cutting the curve, it's me Damien Mason and I'm joined by 01:17 extreme AG founder Kelly Garrett and his right hand man somewhat of his Spock. That's right. Kelly is the Captain Kirk of the Enterprise and his unemotional logic-laden 01:26 sidekick and assistant Mike Evans. He's Mike Evans an agronomist. He is a I'm employee there 01:35 here at Landon cattle B. So runs integrated AG Solutions Evans has been on a lot of episodes if you want to go and watch some the one I encourage you to watch if you 01:44 have not seen it is the one that's the precurs to this one. So recap on what you did and what you learn from it Evans 01:50 you you made a recipe up out of necessity because you want to keep on Farming and turns out it had some negative repercussions. 02:00 So tell us what you did. A standard practice with Kelly's Farm is reverberate the nitrous or vibrate the 02:09 nitrogen and we do that based off yield data zoning yield Maps over time over history and creating our zones and rates off that. 02:18 Well, that's all about this time of year. We started putting hydros on we had a new brand new tractor to Kelly's operation and we had some glitches with it, which is typical 02:27 and agriculture. We bought it for a few days. But we also want to get stuff done because we had all we have 4,000 acres and hydros or something like that to get done. So we had 02:36 to get going and we decided to Flat Rate those until John Deere could get out here and fix the monitor, so we flat rate in a few fields and it 02:45 showed up this summer. and so the thing is many farming operations don't variable rate apply nitrogen, and I don't know what the percentages 02:57 or breakout but you have for standard practice for how many years Kelly done variable rate on your in application. 03:04 2015 was the first year. All right. So you're in your seventh year of saying yes, this is standard practice because you saw Improvement starting in 2015 when 03:13 you said let's not do flat rate. Let's do variable rate and and it's stuck because it worked. 03:18 Absolutely by variable rating the nitrogen the crop is less variable. You even doubt the crop you guys told 03:26 me that you just based on the yield monitor. It looked like you lost 12 to 15% of of yield 03:35 by going a flat rate versus your variable rate is that now that we've gotten a few months away from or we're into the Harvest. Is that going to be an accurate 03:44 number still? Yes, that's inaccurate number. You know, it's really hard to pin down but based upon the yield of the field that we flat rated versus 03:54 the next field that we variable rated. They're right next to each other similar soil type similar variability 12 to 15 percent is the number I'm sticking with 04:03 Mike Evans. Here's the thing that in our last recording about this topic and then we're going to get into the proof is in the soil kind of the proof is in the pudding thing. 04:12 It's not that you didn't put any nitrogen on. In fact, it's not that you didn't put adequate amounts on is that you put the wrong amount in both places. You put two little where you 04:21 needed more you put too much where you needed less you did a normal application for you as a 140 04:27 to 240 pounds of in and tell me how that normally works versus what you did this time my 04:34 Of historically in a better yielding places, we'll put less nitrogen because they'll that that area of farm will 04:43 cycle nitrogen produce nitrogen from the soil naturally then all the way up to the 240s where that soil is less productive has more 04:52 struggles in cycling nitrogen. So that's how we typically run the recommendations. And this time to to get the field 05:02 done, but not done by a variable rate. You did a flat rate of 180 185 which is 05:09 typically the average we run when we do the verberate Rex. So she put more where you 05:15 needed less and less we needed more. Okay, so we covered that and you saw a 12 different 15% yield reduction now, it's 05:25 Done. It's fall this restart looking at stuff, but you sent me a picture. And right now if you are listening to this in your tractor or truck and your driver in your office, I 05:34 encourage you to go on the video and watch the video if you're listening to the audio watch the video because right now our producer will is putting up an image. It is a paper plate 05:43 with three different soils. on the left top middle and bottom and three different soils on the right. top middle and bottom 05:55 For you, they're listening. We can explain it for either watching. It'll be easier to explain it because you've got the visual. What am 06:01 I looking at Mr. Evans? One of the sides the darker soil is what we call the bottom ground the better yielding area. 06:12 and it is a zero to six six to 12 and a 12 to 24 profile. Basically is what we did there. Nobody in inches down. Yes down with 06:23 the soil Pro 06 to 12 12 to 24. Okay. Sorry, you put look at the soil. Basically. The majority of the root 06:32 zone is what we're trying to get what we're looking at then we did that on the Lighter Side. The more aggregate side is on 06:38 the it's probably 200 yards away from where I pulled this up about 60 feet in the air up on a rocky slope. 06:44 Okay, so worst ground on the right hand side of the dinner plate as you look at it the right hand side of this plate as I'm looking 06:50 at it top middle bottom. It's still the same thing zero to six six to 12 and 12 to 24 inches in the profile. 06:56 And so that's worse ground. It's had historically eroded and it doesn't have nutrients in ETC. Right? So one might 07:05 look at this and say what the hell difference does it make I that's just a soil sample. You're better ground looks better on the left and 07:11 got more organic matter. It's got more color and your stuff on the right is lighter. It looks like it's a lighter or soil. So why why does this 07:20 picture illustrate something to me about variable rate application Kelly, you know that darker soil is what we all picture in our 07:29 minds. Is that the good Iowa first the good Iowa soil looks like And the soil on the right obviously doesn't look 07:36 that attractive but the challenge the challenge what we're trying to do with intensive management, you know or extreme AG type management, 07:45 but really determines intensive management. The challenge is to amend that poor area. 07:51 The number one challenge is to amend the poor area to make it productive and and to do that. We need to incorporate the variable rate technology. And as 08:00 Mike said the overall average of anhydrous applied on this field was 180 or 185, which is a pretty standard rate. If 08:10 you were just gonna blanket rate it but instead of managing by the field and put a blanket rate of 180 on we're going to variable rate it and 08:19 we're gonna put Less on the high yielding areas and more on the low yielding areas because again that soil isn't producing its own and we feel 08:28 we get a fifth 12 to 15% yield gain by doing that so it's very much. Worth your time because you're not spending any money, right? You're still 08:36 putting on the same average 180 pounds 185 pounds. It's just it's this is a great area to illustrate an Roi because it's just 08:45 a it's just a management practice. There's no there's no investment here. You know, I guess you could say that I guess 08:51 you could say that you have some investment in some technology but most tractors today. Yeah possess technology 08:57 coming out and so priority number one is to amend that low yielding area and bring up to productive the productivity of it which again 09:06 if you average over the whole field, it's 12 to 15% Priority number two is to see what do we really need in that low yielding area and I'll tell you 09:16 that upon further research and things like that not all of it. We're ready to share yet because we don't have solid data, but we have I'll tell you we turn down 09:25 the high yielding area from 140 to 80 and the beans double we feel that we can go lower. We feel that we're balancing the soil better by going lower and incorporating 09:34 other products that will that will still help and we think we can produce produce even better yields. 09:42 Mike when I when I pull up this picture and I want will to put it back in here again for the person that does want 09:48 to go and see the video because you know, it's illustrative of what we're talking about. 09:55 This variable rate applications of nitrogen or any other input for that matter. Does this does this picture get better five years from 10:04 now or does it look the same or does it you know, I'm saying in other words by by doing what you're doing does this 10:10 soil because we're just for the Long Haul right? I mean this is field might have been Kelly's Grandpa's field. Are we 10:16 making it better? There's variable rate make it better for the Long Haul. I know it's one thing about return on investment getting your biggest bang for your buck intensive management extreme egg style management Etc. 10:25 But let's also talk about the Legacy. Does this this variable rate make that picture better 10 years from now. 10:33 Are you talking about the soil structure changing that? That's you know, no, I mean hearing how to change that over five years with what we're doing and 10:44 does it change. Okay, you've been at it for seven. You've been at it since 2015 in another seven. That's 14 years. Does it does it does it 10:53 discernibly different from to the naked eye. I think you could I think that you could increase the organic matter if you could increase the 11:02 yield in that area, but no, I don't really think you're gonna change it. That's just you know, we're not gonna outspend or 11:08 or push Mother Nature around it is what it is and we just have to figure out how to manage. Yeah, the only time the only time change soil structure and the 15 11:17 16 years that we've been doing. This is Cattleman who are Kelly I've had this discussion is the guys that have a lot of cow manure about their disposal you 11:26 can change soil structure. That's not everybody that's a small sector of the group that can do that and then and take that 11:33 to even take time that takes multiple applications over years and change that slow structure. Well, and that's the thing I 11:39 guess. I remember I said that I sat in a meeting once where the speaker said. It's impossible to increase organic matter In Our Lifetime and your soil and I said that's just 11:49 not true because you can do a lot of things and it's been proven. Does the variable rate help with breaking down 11:56 the organic matter? I guess that's the other idea by doing the right thing because then it didn't create a healthier soil and healthier soils 12:02 then create porosity and those kinds of things. Do you think that contributes to any of those issues? I believe that it does help because it it balances 12:11 the soil. You know, we earlier this week There's a film crew here for another product and the term healthy soil was brought up and they 12:20 said well, what is the definition of that well to me now three years into extreme. I agree into extreme X 12:26 third year a healthy soil to me is a balanced soil because it when you balance it you're unlocking the potential and by by putting on the variable rate 12:35 and hydros, the variable rate nitrogen and trying to really get it exactly where it needs to be. We're trying to 12:41 balance the soil trying to make it healthier, especially in the high yielding areas. We're trying to make it healthier to 12:47 extract more of the elemental nitrogen that we can't okay. I have a question for you then. 12:55 These soil samples. I mean I could have seen that the soil was gonna look like that from one thing to the next. 13:02 If you to pull them since you're saying that looking different 15 years from now if I'd have pulled them before you started doing variable rate with those soil. Would that plate of soil pulls look 13:11 any different? In 2014 before we started doing this. But I don't think so. No, not really not to the naked eye. I would tell you that there could be a little 13:23 better nutrient value potentially in the lower yielding soil. But to the naked I know they'll look to say there's variable rate the none of 13:32 the way to go because you're seeing the yield thing. Is it also allow you to use less are using less nitrogen 13:38 than if you because in the answer voice before at it, you know Farmers love to throw more at it. Just throw more out there more better. No. 13:49 In the nitrogen area. We're actually using about the same typically, you know again, I used to put on 180 pounds of blanket rate before I started doing this 13:58 and I'm still putting on 180 pounds. We're just managing. We're managing a much tighter data set. We're not 14:04 managing by the field or managing by the acre. There's 60 by 60 blocks, you know this year. We 14:10 changed it a little bit. It's a 60 by 60 block. I will tell you though that on our variable rate seating Rec we do use less, you know, I instead of 14:19 blanket planting 32,000. We're variable rating between like 22 and 35,000 on the seat and my average heating right? This 14:28 year's about 285. Uh, we blanket. We we don't blanket rate, even the beans anymore. Our seed beans are between 80 and 14:36 140 and my average seating Rec. This year was 98 fiber used to be 120. So there is an input savings on the seating part but on the nitrogen, it's 14:45 it's a wash. Yeah. So variable variable is allowed you to use a seed in some places but not actually on on fertility if you're the 14:54 Spock and he's the Captain Kirk give me an example this week. We're here is flying off the handle and probably gonna jeopardize all the crew of the Enterprise which you had to talk them 15:03 off the ledge Evans. Where did you have to keep him from Wrecking the Enterprise this week? 15:08 I don't know nothing this week. Nothing this week. He's in his birthday. He's in his John Deere captain's chair steering the USS Enterprise. That is Garrett Landings, 15:17 and he's getting a little emotional and then you had to say Jim here's the situation just like Spock did 15:24 an old Star Trek episodes nothing. No, nothing that I'm involved with him directly. We haven't record truck or broken anything 15:33 this week. It's been a good week. One thing we've been debating is getting back into hydrogen this week. So 15:39 All right. So right now is the time of year and that's the other thing that you do there that some police some people do not you do your nitrogen application 15:45 via anhydrous right now, right? We're recording this in the fourth week of October. This is when you go out there and and stick it in the ground any second thoughts on 15:54 that variable rate or otherwise, do you think you know we should just wait until late bro do this? No. I absolutely not 16:01 a lot of people like to wait till spring because they think it leeches out over the winter. We use a stabilizing agent to help with that and 16:11 When you're putting it on in the spring, it's at the expense of your soil biology and hydras to a lot of people is not 16:17 a good form of nitrogen because it damages soil biology which is true. But it damages soil biology in that diameter that radius whatever you want 16:26 to call it around the application Zone. And then if we if we do it in the fall, it allows that biology to 16:32 heal and replicate into those areas that were damaged in the spring if you'll put the anhydrous on 16:38 in the spring it damages. It doesn't have time to heal and there's the definition of an unhealthy soil and 16:44 there is a yield penalty to for me. There's a yield penalty to Spring applied in hydras. And the reason is is you damage the soil biology. I 16:53 absolutely want to do whatever I can to get it on in the fall. We typically run three combines Damian as you know, we shot one off got another bar so you can run two 17:02 and hydra's bars with the Manpower we've got that's the level. For Harvest is going good. The weather looks good. We shut down one combine 17:09 to put my son Vern. We took him. We took Vernal to combine put him in the anhydrous bar to run two bars. To get it done. What about the people that are around me 17:18 two-point question that they go out there put there in hydroxon. When a Corn's 12 to 18 inches tall side dressing, right? Absolutely. That's 17:27 great. We just can't do that. The only thing is like because you say you talk about iron blight you end up damaging too much stuff, but wouldn't that mess up the soil biology or talk about doing 17:36 that in June and isn't that gonna also mess up the sobiology of all things, you know, that's an interesting perspective. I've never thought of I I've never done it 17:45 so I can't say I you you would think that it would yes, I would I would guess that maybe a liquid nitrogen would be a better choice at 17:54 that time, but I I can't comment on that because I've never I've never tried Evans you're the you're the agronomist 18:00 and and Mr. Spock in this operation. So what would you do my neighbors out here that are putting in hydros on in June when the corns, you know 18:09 side dressing it. They're gonna say wait a minute. You tell me I'm wrong. Are they wrong? Are they messing up their biology? Are they doing 18:17 it the wrong time? Should they just go ahead and start doing fall applications like you Always love that goes into that. I mean there's sometimes it's 18:24 just If you're really smart if you were really Spock you would have said yes, they're wrong because I'm not emotional careful offend people because Spock open appeal 18:34 by being very straight. You just didn't do that. You know what you're losing your spot game here. Come on Evans. All right. Well, there's 18:40 a lot of variables to go into Nature's application. So a lot of things operationally like some people can't get it. So that's why they put it on spring or summer and it's a cheaper form 18:49 versus other forms. So it's depends on your market area and what you have available to you. We have a lot 18:55 of forms available to us in this area certain geographies don't have that availability of nitrogen hydrous and 19:01 some that's all they got is what they have. So you yeah work with what you got to and economics come into it as well. So I think 19:10 it does hurt biology. But if that's your only option I that's what you got to do next question for the people that side dress it and do it in June in my part of the world. It 19:19 might be some other time based on where you are geographically climatesologically. They're putting it all under corn is six to 19:25 And just all let's say should they variable rate that? Or is it a different deal because the corns already growing? Should know right there nitrogen, even if they're doing 19:34 it when the Corn's already up in this round if they're side dressing. I mean, there's probably some limits on rates that you would in season. You want to get too high because you burn burn quite 19:43 a bit. But I would very much look at verberating and see absolutely we've done I've done a lot of airbright and top dressing side dressing with liquid and and 19:53 dry products. So I they would apply to this as well. Yeah final thoughts on this you looked at the soil. We we had we'll put the soil up 20:02 here and and you're gonna continue to do that. Is there any thing that surprises you anything that you're struck by other than the fact that you're convinced 20:11 you're going to continue to do variable rate. Is there anything else that you discovered with this experiment? 20:16 Well to to play on your Star Trek theme the soil is the final frontier. And we know so little about it. I think 20:25 we've learned a lot this summer and it never ceases to amaze me and the the more I learned the more I want to know because it we're going 20:35 in the right direction with our research up alt Hoops a friend of mine. That's in the biological space. He told 20:41 me that the the soil is where the secret lies and that the plant is secondary if we can figure out how to deal with the soil and handle the 20:50 soil and treat the soil. The plant itself is secondary and it speaks to speaks to the saying I heard of speaker one day say the 20:59 biggest thing yield limiting factor on your farm is probably you and you've got to be man enough to be able to handle that and understand it and that I tell you what it's true 21:08 here. I'm the biggest yielding Factor on this Farm because of the mistakes I made and the things I haven't learned yet. 21:14 Evans Wait, don't no. No, I wasn't saying to agree with him I'm saying what's your final thing or final Takeaway on this some of 21:24 the surprise you about this? You didn't think you're doing wrong when you flat rate of it and frankly. You already said that the soil sample don't look 21:32 all that. They're all that surprising to you. Those. Are there anything that did surprise you about this? 21:38 Well, when we did it, you know, we knew it wasn't what we wanted to do and we knew there's a chance there would be a penalty. We'd probably grasped 21:47 it as much as we saw this fall. So yeah, there's that and then I think it's loudest to look deeper. You know, we started question 21:57 ourselves with time. I think we had a phone call Late July and we started really seeing the issues in the field where we 22:03 did this and got us the spurred us onto why what and where and what's going on. So 22:10 You know if everything was hunky-dory we would just combine but deal data moved on now. We're sampling six to twelve, you know, we're going deeper in the soil to 22:19 see because the Ritz go deeper. So typically a lot of people are in a zero to six but we're looking deeper just to see the profile the soil and see 22:27 what else we got going on. So I it's spurred us the really question what we're doing and look deeper there. 22:33 Is there anything that you would think I'm sure let's say when we went from planting soybeans and wide rows to using the drill 22:42 and then we say, why would I ever go back? Well, then we changed it. We went back at least to 15 inch and we've done some we've done 22:48 some reversals. Is there anything that you're going to reverse? Is there any reason you see yourself reversing variable rate nutrient application? 22:56 down the road Oh what other than the technology equipment has broken you have to right? No, there's not and 23:03 the reason is the soils are so variable here with the elevation change things like that. I would tell you there's a chance that maybe someday we don't use anhydrous because we find we 23:12 find a form of nitrogen that is Affordable and that we logistically can get it on and it doesn't damage soil biology. And we 23:21 you know, we've tried a few things we keep coming back down hydros because financially yield wise we can't beat it. But 23:27 the variable rate I think we won't go away from that. I think we'll incorporate it more more and we'll even get Tighter and Tighter to extract all 23:37 the savings we can from the input dollars plus improve the yield as much as possible by putting the new chance where they need to be 23:44 Evans we all leave it there you got anything for me on the way out the door. You look like you're getting ready say something. Yeah, I was um, I think this will 23:53 help us refine our recommendations and use the soil data that were generating to make better wrecks. And who knows maybe someday we're 80 24:02 to 160 instead of 240, you know, whatever that is, and then there's some savings costs that jump into there so it 24:10 It's building on this data set where we've explored down and keep going and see where we end up last question since we're talking about this final frontier 24:19 and all that. Does your old man Jean does Jean Garrett come out and and realize the technology and having the knowledge and the trials like 24:28 you and Evans are doing does he Marvel at this because in the old days you to Flat Rate it you throw that you've thrown more National answer than you needed and you got unless 24:37 yield is he Marvel at what we've been able to do just in the last two cents to what 20 years really just over 24:43 15, but certainly in the last 10 to 15 20 years. You know his his passion really lies with the cattle, but he's pretty observant and he'll 24:53 you know, he'll be in his pickup driving around and he'll he'll see something in the field then he'll ask about it and we'll 24:59 then we'll talk about you know why we did what we did and yeah, he he's very much on board with the 25:05 things the things that we're doing and going on and he you know, he could see the variability in this field 25:11 and that's that's what we saw in July the the bottom end the bottom end of the field started to really 25:17 separate itself in a negative way and we talked about why that was happening versus the other Farms you get up on the hill here, you know how much he can see and and 25:26 we talked about that because he noticed it when we did and we're like well, that's the field we flat rated and we ran out of juice there. Yeah, and 25:35 by the way Evans when he says his father's observant, is that a kind way of saying Snoopy almost nosy kind of 25:41 getting your business that we're talking about? No, he's just paying attention. I always say it's paying attention. 25:47 He's he noticed he noted from the truck seat from the truck window what you guys did and want from one field to the next and that's right there The Testament 25:56 to why you'll continue to why you should variable rate your nutrient applications. Yeah, you know with the variable 26:02 rate that we do we're used to driving around and the whole field is green and it doesn't really it doesn't die off as 26:08 early. You know, you get around Labor Day things like that a blanket rated field in a tough year. Like we just had this year with the drought it'll start to 26:17 die off. Well, you know, we haven't had a dry year since 2013 and we've been variable rating since 2015. We 26:23 didn't realize we didn't remember what that looked like now all of a sudden this year this field that we blanket rated it did it and we're like it's not just right here 26:32 west of the shop a mile or so. So we drive by it a lot. You know, we're like, whoa, what's that, you know, and and it revalidated. It was a slap in the face 15% 26:41 slapping the faces. This is why you do what you do and and as we say 15 There's been plenty of years where 15% was your margin, 26:50 you know, I mean, that's that's you know could be 30 bushels of the court on 200 acre yield and that's that you at six bucks. That's 180, but that's nothing to sneeze at. 26:59 You know, that's that's a hell of a margin and you're missing. On 4,000 acres of corn this year. We'll have 27:04 to see how it comes in. But I think that we'll be a 210 overall yield. It looks like to me and this is a field your average gonna be 27:13 two ten so that and that field did let's feel 170. Yeah, right, you know and and 27:19 this was and this was a rotated field. This wasn't even a corn on cornfield. A lot of our rotated fields are 27:25 making two 25 to 30 and this field made one 70 now, it was an early number of corn, you know Planet earlier things like that. So there's some other variables there's a 27:34 variables but with the truth is we might also be being generous when we say there's only a 12 to 15% hit because of the the very flat versus variable 27:43 rate on your in application. Absolutely 12 to 15% could be a conservative number could but you know, it's impossible to know but I'm pretty 27:52 confident that we can say at least 15% Yes. All right, you get in the last word Mr. Spock? He said it's the best. 28:03 Kelly gar rett Mike Evans. This was the follow-up. I encourage you go and watch the first one we talked about confirming and verifying 28:10 that variable rate in application is the way to go because it makes you money makes you yield is now as we proved in this episode better for the soil next 28:19 time. Thanks for being here guys. Thank you. Thank you. Alright, so next time it's extremax putting the curb. 28:27 Thanks for listening. for more information that You apply to your farm operation visit extreme mag dot Farm are your crot stressed out AG explore 28:38 has you covered with a full line of products to help protect your crop from environmental stressors such as cold and wet or heat and drought check out AC 28:47 and start protecting your yields and profit.

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