Before widespread adoption of mechanical agriculture, farmers paid more attention to specifics such as seeding and fertility.

“Variable rate agriculture gets back to that. It is more specific,” says Billie Scott, Wylie Sprayers Inc., equipment specialist.

Scott, speaking at the Ag Technology conference in Commerce, Texas, last December, said variable rate agriculture saves money. “Farmers apply more where they need and less where they don’t.”

Variable rate agriculture depends on data, either historic or real-time. “Map-based technology can provide an accurate prescription map,” Scott said. “Sensor-based technology offers real-time data from sensors to apply (specific amounts of seed or other materials) as farmers go through the fields.” Sensors include units such as GreenSeekers and others.

Scott said historical data from a farm helps establish patterns and identify productive and less productive zones within fields. Soil tests, yield monitors and Veris machines also provide data to help develop prescription programs for individual crops, fields and management zones.

Data derived from these and other sources help producers make management decisions, he said. “Decisions depend on a specific farm and management techniques. But it works for various size farms. Custom applicators use variable rate technology.

“It works,” Scott said.