VRT Success Story

Ag Retailers Finding Success in Variable Rate Technology Cost Share

Since the fall of 2016, the Partnership for Ag Resource Management (PARM) has provided ag retailers an opportunity to offer a $16/acre reimbursement, for up to 100 acres per person, to first-time users of variable rate technology (VRT). VRT allows growers to apply more precise fertilizer applications tailored to the needs of specific locations within a field. VRT optimizes nutrient use efficiency, minimizes costs, maximizes yield and reduces nutrient losses from cropland, so it is a triple win for ag retailers, growers and the environment.

One participating ag retailer has reported selling more than 4,000 acres of VRT to his customers this year to date, and hiring additional employees to keep up with demand. “It’s a tool that other [ag retailers] should use, even though it may not cover all of their customers in the area. We have had additional new VRT business from outside of the targeted watershed from referrals,” according to the retailer.

In addition to contributing to ag retail bottom lines, customers are reporting improvements in yields and nutrient planning ability. VRT allows customers to fine-tune their fertilizer planning, and use their investment in a more cost-effective way. “Some growers didn’t use good sampling practices before, so they didn’t realize that they were applying too much phosphorus,” reports one participating retailer. Resources that the grower would have spent on unnecessary phosphorus fertilizer can now be reallocated towards improving yield by addressing other nutrient deficiencies, such as calcium or other micronutrients needed for crop production.

Based on a rough estimate of phosphorous loss reductions from an average of university research reports, 6000 acres of VRT eliminates about 2300 pounds of phosphorus losses. As this retailer describes, “It’s a small piece of the pie, but you have to start somewhere. A program like this offers people a chance to look at it, and once they try it they see it’s making them money.”

Retailers generally report that once customers try VRT through the cost-share program, they are hooked. The VRT cost-share program allows new growers to build relationships with participating retailers, and allows retailers to introduce additional nutrient management services. This retailer enthusiastically proclaimed, “We’re going to continue with this program after the cost share. It’s a no brainer!”
Thanks to generous funding from the EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, PARM’s participating retailers will enroll a total of 20,000 acres in VRT by 2019. Ag retail customers in the Sandusky, Cedar-Portage, Lower Maumee and Blanchard watersheds in Ohio are eligible for this VRT cost-share program. View our field/road level interactive map to see if you and your customers qualify!.

To lean more, contact Mark Adelsperger at mark@partnershipfarm.org. Check out our 2016 ag retailer survey results posted in the July newsletter for more information about environmental and economic returns on our products and services.

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