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Data-Driven Decisions: The Power of Variable Rate Fertigation

Thanks to the rapid evolution of precision agriculture, embracing new technology is essential for farmers who want to optimize yields, minimize input costs, and increase their ROI.


One of those innovations, variable rate technology (VRT), empowers farmers to precisely apply water, fertilizers, nutrients, and pesticides exactly where and when crops need them. This precision both reduces waste and increases cost-effectiveness.


What is Variable Rate Fertigation?


Fertigation uses an irrigation system to precisely apply water-soluble fertilizers to the crop. This process ensures even nutrient distribution and absorption by the plants, which maximizes nutrient uptake and minimizes waste.


And with VRT, fertigation can reach new heights.


VRT allows you to adjust fertilizer application rates based on specific crop needs and field conditions. No longer do farmers haphazardly apply excessive fertilizer across the entire field to meet specific needs. With VRT, they can now precisely pinpoint and optimize the delivery of nutrients, ensuring that each unique zone receives precisely the right amount of fertilizer it requires based on its varying soil types, nutrient levels, crop growth stages, and yield goals.


The Value of Variable Rate Fertigation


By precisely tailoring applications with VRT technology, variable rate fertigation (VRF) can enhance nutrient management and revolutionize crop development. This targeted approach avoids over or under-application, and helps farmers adapt to changing environmental conditions.


With real-time adjustment capabilities provided by VRF technologies such as N-Time™, farmers don’t just save money. They also reduce nutrient waste and minimize environmental impact, which promotes sustainability and demonstrates responsible land stewardship.


Throughout the growing season, N-Time™ technology closely monitors crop needs and provides timely insights on when and where to apply or withhold nutrients. When farmers use this flexibility to apply nutrients precisely when crops need them, they improve crop and soil health (ultimately leading to better land stewardship and sustainability), maximize yield potential, increase their Nutrient Use Efficiency (NUE), and boost overall profitability.


Additionally, VRF enhances resource efficiency by optimizing water usage through targeted applications. This is an invaluable tool for farmers facing water scarcity or excessive rainfall.


How to Implement Variable Rate Fertigation


Fertigation equipment is the backbone of VRF implementation. It combines special, cutting-edge technology to ensure precise nutrient delivery. Although very important, this technology is simple to use with approachable and user-friendly interfaces. Don’t forget to monitor and maintain all equipment components to ensure optimal performance and avoid disruptions during critical growth stages.


Sensor technologies also play a pivotal role by providing real-time data on soil moisture, nutrient levels, and crop health, all of which are essential for data-driven decision-making.


Farmers can use software and control systems to program and remotely manage fertigation. Remote monitoring helps farmers detect problems early, reduce field visits, and adjust application settings from anywhere with an internet connection. Many VRF-capable pumps have internet connectivity.


To ensure accurate nutrient application rates, proper system calibration is necessary.


VRF prescriptions differ in format from other VRT applications. Control systems act as intermediaries between various devices from multiple manufacturers. They facilitate communication between irrigation mechanisms, irrigation control panels, telemetry units that measure irrigation system positions, fertigation monitors that interpret VRF prescriptions, and fertigation pump rate controllers that execute the prescriptions.


Implementing VRF offers multiple avenues for flexibility. Farmers can adjust the flow rate, concentration, or timing of fertilizer injections during the irrigation process. They can also vary the amount of water applied or the irrigation system’s speed while maintaining a constant fertilizer injection rate.


It’s critical to strike the right balance between water needs and nutrient requirements. Excessive irrigation solely for VRT purposes could lead to water logging or nutrient leaching, which could harm crop health.


You’ll also need to pick the right application method — VRF via overhead sprinkler irrigation is an outstanding choice for large fields because equipment is readily available to execute it well. Balancing the irrigation rate and sprinkler mount location with where nutrients need to be delivered (soil applied or foliar uptake) is an important factor in successful fertigation with overhead irrigation. Drip irrigation also provides a tremendous opportunity for fertigation because it delivers water and nutrients directly to the crop's root zone and ensures efficient nutrient uptake. However, varying application rates via VRF may not be as easily accomplished due to the function of these irrigation systems.


The Bottom Line


With careful calibration and precise application, VRF holds immense potential for optimizing crop management, boosting productivity, and fostering sustainable agricultural practices. By giving crops the right nutrients at the right time in the right amounts, farmers can ensure their fields thrive — even amidst varying soil and environmental conditions.


At Sentinel Fertigation, we continuously push the boundaries of VRF technology. N-Time™ already offers VRF prescription generating capabilities. We are working to integrate our N-Time™ system with VRF hardware for remote monitoring to empower farmers to track and manage their VRF systems from anywhere with an internet connection. With advanced imagery and insights through N-Time™, farmers can detect problems sooner, make adjustments remotely, avoid costly reapplications, and reduce field visits.


To further explore the possibilities of VRF through N-Time™ and Sentinel Fertigation, we invite you to reach out to our knowledgeable team or visit the rest of our website for more information.

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