By Kari Burnett, PAg, Agriculture Program Specialist
In Western Canada, precision farming applications are being adopted by producers to varying degrees. Although variable rate nitrogen fertilization is the most common, variable rate treatments can also apply to seed, pesticides, or even irrigation.
There are many reasons for using variable rate treatments, including:
- Increasing yields through variable rate fertilizer applications (note: this may also increase fertilizer costs);
- Increasing profit by reallocating fertilizer from less productive portions of the field without increasing overall fertilizer applied per field (this increases revenues without increasing costs);
- Increasing yield and revenues by focusing on increasing yields in less productive portions of the field;
- Reducing fertilizer costs through variable rate fertilizer treatments;
- Increasing the quality of production through variable rate applications;
- Evening out maturity or reducing lodging (this may require varying fertilizer and seeding rates); and
- Reducing pesticide costs on practices such as fungicides for disease control.
Evaluating the results of using variable rate treatments is important to measure whether you are reaching your objectives. Using a combination of GPS and calibrated yield monitors are the most common ways to determine geo-referenced yields, and comparing results.
Under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) Farm Stewardship Program, there is a Variable Rate Mapping Beneficial Management Practice (BMP) available to assist producers to obtain zone maps for variable rate fertilizer and variable rate irrigation application. Through this BMP, producers can reduce their environmental impacts to soil and water resources and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
Funding is available at a rate of 30 per cent to maximum of $2,000. The maximum eligible costs for variable rate mapping are $8/acre, which works out to a maximum reimbursement of $2.40/acre. This BMP under the Farm Stewardship Program is the only rebate program – the others all require pre-approval. To be eligible for the Variable Rate Mapping BMP:
- Producers must earn a minimum of $50,000 of gross farm income in the province of Saskatchewan;
- Producers who own, lease or rent property where livestock and poultry are grown, bred, kept, raised, displayed, assembled or disposed of require a Saskatchewan Premises Identification; and
- Producers must have an Environmental Farm Plan Certificate of other sustainability initiative such as Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+), 4R Nutrient Stewardship or an International Sustainability and Carbon Certificate (ISCC).
Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) is a free, online self-assessment tool designed to help producers identify environmental risks on their farm and create action plans to address those risks.
Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) is a voluntary, market-oriented, producer managed forward-looking program enabling Canada’s beef industry to anticipate and meet emerging and growing demands for beef production systems throughout the Canadian beef value chain.
4R Nutrient Stewardship provides a framework to achieve cropping system goals, such as increased production, increased farmer profitability, enhanced environmental protection and improved sustainability.
The objective of International Sustainability and Carbon Certificate (ISCC) is to contribute to the implementation of environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable production and use all kinds of biomass in global supply chains.
Eligible activities for reimbursement under the Variable Rate Mapping BMP include one-time consulting services and associated costs for purposes of creating zone maps for variable rate fertilizer and variable rate irrigation application, on fields that have not previously been mapped. All invoices for eligible expenses must be dated April 1, 2018, or later.
Ineligible activities or items include:
- Soil sampling or soil conductivity testing if not done as part of a consulting service for the purpose of creating zone maps for variable rate fertilizer or variable rate irrigation application;
- New or used equipment;
- Equipment modifications;
- Hardware or software related to yield mapping or data capture for the purpose of creating zone maps;
- GPS guidance units including hand-held GPS units; and
- In-kind labour.
For more information on available CAP programs, contact an Agriculture Programs Specialist at a Ministry of Agriculture Regional Office near you or call the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.