Multi-Hybrid and Variable Rate Seeding: Benefits and Technologies

Aaron Gault

Aaron has a B.S. in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University. His ability to integrate probability of yield response to in-field stimuli is a key component of Advanced Agrilytics sub-field understanding of yield.

From corn to wheat to soybeans, a hybrid seed exists to suit most growing conditions. But I find that growers aren’t simply concerned about whether or not crops will grow in their soil—they want real results. They want their crops to flourish and produce the highest yield possible. The hybrid seeds chosen and the rate at which seeding occurs can certainly influence yield, but today’s grower needs foundational knowledge and field-specific information to use hybrids and variable rate seeding to their best advantage. We at Advanced Agrilytics utilize scientific practices that go beyond the common methods of precision agriculture, ultimately leading growers to the higher yields they’re expecting.

Multi Hybrid

For multi-hybrid seeding to benefit a farmer, those hybrids have to grow differently and have different yields in the same soil. The best multi-hybrid seeding results occur in fields with variable landscapes or other differentiating environmental conditions. If the field is relatively consistent, the grower may end up getting a better yield by just planting one kind of seed known to produce well. However, if they’re dealing with multiple soil types, different light levels, or shifts in elevation which impact water content, distinct hybrids might perform better under the varying conditions. Some growers have seen yield improvements of 6-7 bushels per acre after implementing multi-hybrid seeding. However, this strategy has to be implanted with a firm knowledge of what exactly the differences are between the regions where specific hybrids will be planted. Otherwise, picking the perfect seed and supporting it to fruition will be a challenge.

Variable Rate

Environmental factors also come into play when determining how many seeds to plant. Varying how many seeds are planted in a specific zone based on water levels, sunlight, and other factors, not only maximizes yield, it capitalizes on the grower’s seed investment. For example, an area prone to flooding might receive less seed, and a fertile area might receive more to make up for it. The biggest factor in the success of variable rate seeding is the quality of soil and other growing conditions. Without proper understanding of the soil where seeds are planted, farmers can’t predict or control how well or poorly those seeds will grow. That means knowing how much water the soil will hold, what it’s composed of, and what other minerals or nutrients might impact the way the plant grows. The problem is, unless analysis is applied across the whole field as a spectrum, many of the benefits might still be lost, not because the science isn’t there, but because there isn’t enough data to go on.

Knowing Your Soil, Knowing Your Plan

If you’re farming more than 1,000 acres, you might already use multiple hybrids, or plant less seed where you always get flooding. Most farmers have at least heard of these tactics. However, without the information to support your plan, executing these strategies successfully is not a strategy at all, it’s guesswork. Even within a number of large zones, trying out different hybrids or different seeding rates is like throwing a handful of darts at a board and hoping you hit all bullseyes.  You just don’t know what’s different from acre to acre in that zone, and it means that your yield could be higher if you did.

The necessary attachments and technology for a planter to drop multiple seeds at a variable rate isn’t cheap, but it’s still much easier to come by than an accurate prescription for how much of which types of seed should be dropped, and where. The first takes innovation, but the second requires understanding. Only by careful analysis of your soil can a true portrait of your field’s needs—and potential—emerge.

The strategy to maximize yield is going to be different from field to field, even acre to acre. One of the reasons we stand so strongly behind our practices at Advanced Agrilytics is because of the depth and scale at which we can analyze the land. We go beyond macro-level mapping to understand every square foot of your soil. Equipped with a clear understanding of your earth, we can help you use each furrow to its best advantage. Talking to us is always free, so reach out to me at *email address to schedule a conversation about your land.


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