“We have been able to sign up growers for our VRT program that wouldn’t consider it in the past. Some have even paid for additional acres out of their own pockets.” – ag retailer cost-share participant
Low crop prices have farmers focused on ways to minimize costs while optimizing inputs. For many, variable rate phosphorus application makes sense for optimizing this input, but the costs to get involved can prevent many from taking the leap. The Partnership for Ag Resource Management (PARM) is helping ag retailers and growers overcome this barrier through a new cost share pilot using Variable Rate Technology (VRT) in the Sandusky River Basin, Ohio with funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
VRT works well for farmers that are looking to optimize inputs, but it also makes water quality sense by reducing P losses from cropland. The VRT cost-share program has been a partnership with 13 ag retailer outlets. Participating growers have an opportunity to enroll up to 80 acres at a discounted price. Approximately 91 growers have enrolled 5773 acres to date to receive soil sampling and variable rate nutrient application for at least three years.
The average farm size in the pilot area has been 305 acres. The program could transition almost 28,000 acres if growers see advantages to the program and fully adopt VRT on their operations. From many conversations with ag retailers, SWCDs and agronomists, we’re confident that once these growers try VRT they will want to do more of it!
Enrolling growers in these programs is a triple win for farmers, ag retailers and Western Lake Erie. The PARM team is actively looking for funding to expand this successful and practical program to the rest of the Great Lakes Basin.