Variable rate drilling to reach field potential

With harvest winding up and drilling beginning it seems timely to share how I use a number of precision tools to create the 'Rolls Royce' of drilling plans - using variable rate seed to give each field the capacity to reach its full potential.

For a long time farmers have 'manually' adjusted seed rates in poorer performing areas of the field on an ad hoc basis. The introduction of variable rate seed techniques has applied precision science to refine this process. Since developing variable rate seed in 2004, SOYL has recorded thousands of plant counts related to soil types so that, after conducting soil surveys, we can create a successful drilling plan based on a typical autumn establishment.

Seed rate

When creating a new drilling plan at this time of year I approach it practically, considering all aspects that will affect how the crops I help manage will establish. I use a web-based tool, MySOYL to plan the right number of seeds for the right place, using multiple layers of data which will get the most out of crops.

Seed rate is the first thing to consider, variable rate or not, and this decision is fixed. The target seed rate is dependent on timing, seed bed conditions and variety agronomics. All of these should be appropriate to give the crop the capacity to achieve the optimum population required.

Variable rate

Variable rate then helps me actually get to that optimum population across the whole field by considering layers of different data related to physical and biological factors.

The establishment layer controls what gets planted where. Establishment is simply the percentage of seed planted that will result in a viable plant. Here MySOYL helps me to use all the farm information to manage variation and create and compare different establishment rate scenarios.

Being able to consider and compare different establishment rate scenarios is one of the key benefits of using variable rate seed within MySOYL. Seasons and weather vary from year to year and require a different approach to get the best results.

I might use a lower establishment rate scenario for a wet autumn when seed beds are less favourable, or higher establishments in a really kind autumn when soil conditions are good. Meanwhile, spring drilling needs a different plan because establishment ranges narrow in the kinder spring weather. Different crops might want different establishments too.


The beauty of making variable rate plans using new technology is that I can change seed plans at the click of a button to make all of these adjustments.

I can also add layers of data to help manage pest and weed pressure, using local knowledge to create bespoke plans. Information from the field recorded during previous seasons using the iSOYLscout app can easily be incorporated into drilling plans regardless of whether I, the farmer, or the agronomist recorded the observations. These might be areas of slug damage or poor establishment of previous crops. All will help me create a better drilling plan.

Once happy with my plans, it is seamless to transfer the final drilling plan to SOYL's variable rate app iSOYL on an iPad or to download application files for the relevant GPS controller ready to drill the seed.

With variable rate plans created and drilling underway, I get a real buzz from knowing that our plan is using technology to draw on many layers of surveyed data combined with our local knowledge of the fields. This gives a field the capacity to achieve its full potential. If weather, pest, disease and other conditions are kind to us, we can look forward to superb results in the season ahead. 

Peter Croot

SOYL regional manager

For specific advice for your business related to this blog or any other aspect of precision crop production get in touch with SOYL.

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Saturday, 28 May 2022

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