Variable Rate Application (VRA) in Precision Farming

Variable rate application (VRA) technology coincided with the arrival of precision soil sampling. This process has allowed the farmer to apply products at a variable rate according to the precision maps obtained from the precision soil sampling data. As a result, the process of applying additives to crop spraying has become more cost-effective and helps to minimise waste.

The importance of optimising farming practice

Looking at the state of the world with its growing population and increased levels of food insecurity, the optimisation of farming practices has become increasingly important. Genetic plant technology, as one part of the equation has already reached a plateau, with modern-day varieties yielding tremendous potential.

For example, some of the ranges of maize have a genetic potential of 30 or more tons per hectare, but there has only been a select few across the globe which have been able to extract the full genetic potential out of these varieties. In fact, if looking at the global average, only in very few instances is higher than 13 tons per hectare achieved – less than a 50% rate. Although climate does play a role here, the biggest driving factor is likely crop management, which includes alterations to soil by the applications of various fertilisers etc.

Soil nutrition is also one of the few variables that has room for improvement within agriculture, as the science behind it has not yet evolved to an optimum level. This theory applies not only to maize but also to any crop. Precision soil sampling and the data extracted from it can be used to identify problem areas within a field and to make corrective decisions – applying too much or too little of a specific nutrient to a field can both affect crop yield. Technologies like precision soil sampling and VRA has made it possible to mitigate this effect.

Variable Rate Application within an African context

Although the use of precision soil sampling and VRA is relatively new within the African perspective it is becoming more and more widespread. Agriculture within Africa must quickly adapt to be able to meet this demand and although the technology is available, implementation is not as established as it should be. Increased production costs have made it almost impossible for many farmers to make a sustainable living. The only way that agriculture on the continent can move forward sufficiently to meet food demand is to optimise management practices by implementing technologies such as variable rate application and precision soil sampling into production systems.

The use of modern technology is known to increase yields, cut down on unnecessary wastage and this will, in turn, reduce production costs. All this ultimately results in a more sustainable agricultural system to support African economies.

Unitrans Africa is a leader in precision agriculture technology in Africa. They have built up a large footprint in Africa due to expertise and reputation for constant agricultural innovation. They now have solid base of agricultural operations in many African countries such as Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique.

Together with other precision agriculture practices which Unitrans Africa offers (soil sampling, drone surveying, field levelling and yield mapping), VRA fertiliser/seed/chemical application is part of the process used to address all aspects of farming in order to reduce costs and increase yields.

Find out more about Unitrans Africa’s values of innovation, honesty, excellence, unity, safety and constancy, as well as their ability to provide comprehensive contributions to farming operations by contacting them via email.