Variable-rate (VR) technologies allow site-specific application of crop inputs so they can be precisely matched with soil or crop requirements within a field. These technologies include sensors and rate control systems on application equipment to vary the amount of product based on a prescription map or sensed soil/crop properties in real-time. VR technologies helps in more efficient application of crop inputs by reducing over-application in certain parts of the field, thus also improving environmental sustainability. Some of the common applications of VR technology in precision agriculture currently are for varying the fertilizer and seeding rates based on pre-defined grid or management zones within the fields. 

Our research on VR technologies is focused in two main areas:

  1. Utilizing different soil and crop spatial properties for delineation of management zones that can be used to informed VR application of crop inputs
  2. Evaluating the performance of current VR technologies on application equipment to improve the application accuracy of crop inputs

We are working on several projects related to VR technology and its applications. Few of them are listed below:

  • Evaluating the influence of different soil sampling grid sizes on application accuracy and economics of VR lime and fertilizer applications in row-crops
  • Investigating the potential of different soil and crop spatial data to delineate management zones for VR fertilizer and seeding applications
  • Assessing performance of VR technologies on dry broadcast fertilizer spreaders to evaluate their response time and application accuracy during rate transitions
  • Evaluating performance of latest VR seeding technologies on row-crop planters at different seeding rates and ground speeds
  • Comparing performance of rate control and pulse width modulation (PWM) systems on agricultural sprayers for VR pesticide applications