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How Can Management Zones Help You?

Jan 20, 2020

As many growers in central Minnesota will attest to there are no two farms, fields or even areas of a field that are exactly alike. There is a tremendous amount of variability in every field. This variability comes in the form of different soil types, water-holding capacity, field topography and nutrient levels just to name a few. Management zones can use information and data about these factors to help improve planning and agronomic practices.

Management zones can increase the efficiency of lime application, fertilizer application and timing, hybrid and variety selection and seeding rates.  Many who move to management zone creation with variable-rate corn planting are able see an annual seed cost reduction of 15% across different zones with no yield reduction.

Creating and using management zones does not necessarily mean using less seed or fertilizer all together, but reallocating inputs to areas where the best return on investment will be received. Zones can come in all different shapes and sizes. This allows management practices to be very focused areas within a field. The agronomic component that is the weakest link can be vastly different throughout a field so these zones allow for different focuses and amendments.

The top priority when working on creating management zones is collecting correct, quality data. Having calibrated yield data and weighted treatments is an important step to creating effective and accurate zones. Soil types, topography, soil samples, yield data and past crop performance are all crucial components necessary before creating zones. The more years of yield data the better. This allows for a snapshot of yields in wet and dry years. This view of past crop performance related to weather conditions is invaluable.

Management zones and variable rate maps are created using a GIS (Geographic information Systems) mapping software. These systems assigns a rate to a physical point on a map that a machine then reads and applies the chosen input accordingly. Each year these zones are adjusted based on crop performance and observations.

Once zones are developed, pick one thing that would you would like test. This could be nitrogen timing or rate, seeding rates or many other variables as the list is about endless. It is important to focus on one variable at a time so the yield response can be associated with one component and evaluated.

Management zones and variable rate maps have been a pillar of Centra Sota’s Yield Quest program since its induction. These zones and maps, along with the local knowledge of Centra Sota’s Crop Advisors have given growers increased yields, an increased ROI and a better understanding of limiting factors in their fields. To learn more about Yield Quest, management zones and variable rate applications contact your local Centra Sota Crop Advisor.


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