ST. LOUIS, MO.—This planting season, more than 150 farmers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota are using the first offering from Monsanto’s Integrated Farming Systems (IFS) as beta testers for the platform’s FieldScripts prescription for variable-rate planting of specific corn hybrids.

The company announced during a media event at the St. Louis headquarters May 14 that the “Ground Breakers” testing program will be used for planting approximately 35,000 acres in 2013.

FieldScripts integrates Monsanto’s understanding of individual hybrid performance with the data farmers provide about their individual fields to identify the best hybrids and provide a variable rate planting prescription for each field. The prescription for planting can be adjusted until the last minute because it is delivered through the FieldView Plus app to the farmer’s iPad, which will control the planter operation via precision equipment installed on the planter. 

Monsanto is establishing FieldScripts certified dealers to market and assist farmers when FieldScripts is fully launched in 2014, if the Ground Breakers beta-testing farmers are as successful as anticipated. The source of FieldScripts in 2014 will be certified Dekalb seed dealers.

The charge for providing farmers FieldScripts has not been determined for the launch year, although Kerry Preese, global strategy manager, said it will be based on the value provided the farmer while providing a return to Monsanto, too.

FieldScripts were beta tested in 2012 by about 60 growers. Between last year and previous year’s testing, the anticipated yield increase of using FieldScripts is between 5 bushel and 10 bushel per acre, according to Preese.    

Monsanto purchased the Precision Planting company, and equipment developed for attachment to different brands and models of planters is required to utilize Field Scripts. Monsanto doesn’t have any agreements with other manufacturers for developing similar equipment that it is able to announce at this time, although comments by different officials are that the company doesn’t want to be in the equipment business long term.       

While many farmers own variable rate planters, there has not been a simple and accurate way to utilize them, according to Monsanto. Traditionally, variable rate seeding has been based on soil type or normalized yield, but these methods fall short of revealing the true picture of what is happening in the field or providing a means to plant accurately using that information, Monsanto further contends.

FieldScripts allows the farmer to accurately plant a lower seeding rate in lower-yielding areas of the field, and a higher seeding rate at higher yielding areas of the field, maximizing the yield potential of every seed based on all the data that can be compiled about the soil, previous cropping and fertility.

Robb Fraley, executive vice president and chief technical officer, said insight into how, why and where different hybrids will perform allows FieldScripts to make sense. It is knowing the sequence of all 45,000 genes in a corn plant that is the basis for FieldScripts because “we start to understand why hybrid A will work in one field and why hybrid B will work better in another field.” The information also gives insight into whether to plant 25,000 seed or 45,000 seed and if it should be planted differentially through the different contours of a field. 

“With our FieldScripts group, we are looking at 60 technical parameters that really undermine the yield potential of a particular corn seed, and that is what comes together in FieldScripts,” Fraley said.   

Monsanto contends, “Many Ground Breakers farmers have been especially pleased by how simple it is to put FieldScripts to work on their farm because it is simpler than it sounds.”