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What Is the Value of Aerial Imaging?

Jan 13, 2012

Question: I’m hearing more about aerial imaging and wonder if I should consider it this year on some of my acres?

 Answer: Aerial imaging, or Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) mapping, can give you an in-season snapshot of your crop. Knowing the level of detail provided by the map will determine how you use the tool. NDVI is a good tool to use in developing management zones. Make sure you know what you want to learn from the maps before you take the plunge. For instance, if you want the map to act like a yield monitor, a 15-meter or 30-meter map will suit your needs. If you want a map with a higher level of detail than a yield map so you can see smaller management zones or pinch rows behind the planter, then you probably need a higher resolution. Your local retailer can probably tell you how to go about getting the mapping process done, your potential costs and ROI.
In 2010, the Farm Journal Test Plots crew went to the field with all of the commercially available technologies to create NDVI maps. There are multiple ways to collect data for the maps: equipment-mounted sensors, images taken from airplanes and satellite imagery.
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