Because walking every acre is out of the question, farmers are turning to drones, manned aircraft, satellites and remote-sensing technology. The resulting imagery paired with other data and boots on the ground can then become actionable intelligence to be used for a host of purposes.
Create Management Zones
Paired with yield history, calibrated yield maps and soil details, aerial imagery can be used to create management zones. At the basic level, a traditional photo and/or satellite images can be beneficial. Thermal and normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) images provide even more detail and perspective.
Manage Georeferenced Soil Sampling
A basic high-altitude photo and remote-sensing images provide additional information about variability in the field and where directed soil sampling can help interpret variability.
Target Scouting Efforts
Aerial photos and remote-sensing technology allow a farmer to set out on foot to determine the reason (such as weeds, pests or nutrient issues) behind a curious spot on an image. Thermal technology, for example, can provide advance warning on the spread of disease, such as gray leaf spot at left, from neighboring fields.
Schedule and Evaluate Fertilizer and Pesticide Applications
Sensor technology measures light, radiation and heat by capturing different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is handy to assess the health of growing crops and allow time for corrective action.
Find Mechanical Errors in Application Equipment
A bird’s-eye view of crop damage due to sprayer or irrigation issues allows a farmer to make note of the cause and repair the equipment. The satellite image below shows an issue with the pivot, which turned out to be a clogged nozzle.
Schedule Irrigation Based on Crop Need
Advanced imagery can provide soil analyses for irrigation, showing which parts of the field are dry and which parts are wet, as well as crop temperature, as shown above. The green areas on this thermal image are receiving adequate water, the red and white areas too little, and the purple and blue areas too much water.
View the Entire Field or Farm
A basic high-altitude image taken during the growing season provides a baseline reference for crop growth and the magnitude of any problem areas. There is also post-mortem value in a whole-field view to make note of areas that need addressed and remedied for the next season.