One area of technology advancement in agriculture has been variable rate seeding and fertilizer application. But true precision agriculture has to go beyond just varying the rate of application to actually optimizing the rate of application. That’s why agronomist and precision agriculture consultant Jonathan Zettler prefers the term “optimal rate”.
Zettler… “Optimal rate implies, in my opinion anyways, that there's probably some thought process that went into why you're adjusting the rate in given parts of the field, and refers more to the agronomy of coming up with the recommendation. Whereas variable rate really just describes that the machine can adjust the rate.”
Zettler points to the 4Rs and argues that just because a farmer is varying their rate of application, doesn’t mean they’re getting the full value from the technology.
Zettler… “You know, its right rate, right place, right time, right source. When you start talking about that, it kind of lends more to, you know, when we're making recommendations rather than referring it to variable rate. Yes. That's a great description to describe the fact that you can adjust the chain on the fertilizer spreader to go faster or slower and in given parts of the field. But it doesn't necessarily imply that that was the right rate to put there. And I think it forces you to have a more in depth conversation around why you're putting that rate where you are.”
Zettler is the owner of Fieldwalker Agronomy in Ontario.