Fertility is one of the costliest investments you can make on the farm. With yield goals increasing across the country, being efficient, effective, and precise with fertilizer dollars has an ever-expanding impact on the bottom line. That’s why developing a comprehensive, data-focused management strategy is so important.

On our farms, we’re collecting more and more data, from soil and tissue samples to yield maps and more, with the hope of improving that strategy. Where once the majority of farmers broadcast a flat rate across entire fields, grid sampling and variable rate applying precision fertility based on soil information has become more common. However, no platform has allowed us to take the yield data from our combines and easily calculate crop removal rates to quickly generate prescriptions.

Until now, that is. VRAFY is the newest fertility management platform, and it’s bringing a simple yet unique focus to how we feed our crops – our yield data. While balancing and maintaining soil levels is important, bringing yield information into the equation is powerful.

“Even if a farmer soil samples in one-acre grids, that is just one data point per acre,” said Rob Fritz, Senior Agronomist with Hefty Seed Company. “The yield monitoring systems in combines generate a data point once every second, so by bringing in yield data, we can dial in to get 200 to 300 points per acre.”

All VRAFY users have access to automatic crop removal prescriptions and the highest quality satellite imagery available in the industry. Plus, its integration with John Deere Operations Center allows usage of farm equipment from any platform, meaning you can easily transform your data into action no matter the color of your harvest or application equipment.

“With the VRAFY system, you have access to nutrient recommendations based on removal rates from the International Plant Nutrition Institute,” Fritz said. “Then, Midwest Labs guidelines form the standard recommendations, and there is also a soil build and nutrient balance portion that is super unique. Incorporating all that is something no one else offers.”

Another feature unique to VRAFY is the Soil Point to Yield (SPY) analysis, which takes soil test information and matches it to yield data to generate charts and calculations that determine the impact of specific soil nutrients and how they correlate to better yield results. This new feature is a tool many growers have been seeking as they look for ways to better manage their applications.

“I’m really looking forward to being able to match up my soil test points with yield maps,” said Ron Schaeffer, a farmer from Menno, S.D. “We’re in the process of taking updated soil samples for next season, and I’m looking forward to being able to do the integration automatically and have high quality data.”

For farmers with more intensive management in mind, VRAFY has built-in options for custom formulas and zone generation.

“The VRAFY zone management and generation tools are highly advanced,” Fritz said. “It uses artificial intelligence to create more efficient systems of consistent data acquisition and combining that with advanced statistical analysis to create zones. This generates an unprecedented level of turning data into action. In the past, it has been difficult to sort through multiple layers of data from different sources without having issues. This platform does it in a second. It’s very easy, and it allows you to do more zoning and make better comparisons.”

As a member of the VRAFY early access program, Ethan Kracht has seen this in action on the operation he works with. Previously, the operation relied on grid sampling alone to generate fertility recommendations. After using VRAFY’s crop removal analysis to generate a new plan based on the previous two years of crop removal, he observed that the money saved in more efficient nutrient management more than covered the cost of the platform in year one.

“We normally do grid sampling to see where fertilizer is needed,” Kracht said. “We had some corn ground that yielded in the 140s where the grid sampling said we needed to put a lot of fertilizer on there. VRAFY took our yield data for the last two seasons, overlaid the yield maps, and generated a plan we could use.”

To prove out the benefits of VRAFY’s recommendations, Ethan did side-by-side comparisons in full field scenarios to see just how much of an impact the platform had on his bottom line.

“The VRAFY field called for 210 pounds of NPK, the other called for 250,” he said. “The yield data recommendation was the same as the soil data, just reversed. The soil data was putting it where the soil needed it, but not where we’d need it for the crop. Once we have everything in the soil built up, we only need to replace what we remove. This VRAFY thing allows us to no longer guess at what we’ve removed. Until we’ve gotten to this point, yield maps only told you what part of the field did better, but we never really did anything with that information. Now, we’re finally creating value for our yield maps.”

For more information about VRAFY and how you can get started this fall, visit with your Hefty Agronomist.