Looking at Your Crops from a Different Perspective

What if you could get a bird’s-eye view of your crops?  While it’s not very enjoyable to walk a corn field from end to end in August, there are other options to see how your crop is maturing, how weather has impacted it, or even if disease or pests have set in.
“There are three different options available to producers today,” says Wes Helkenn, Agriculture Technology Sales Lead for Agtegra. “Images from drones, airplane imagery acquired from a series of airplane flights or satellite imagery are a few of the most common used in production agriculture today.”
Different Types of Images
Drones take images that indicate a crop’s Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), which tracks chlorophyll content in plants. Drones can take images on demand, but it is a very time and labor-intensive process.
“NDVI helps you benchmark the actual amount of vegetation compared to other spots in the field,” Helkenn says. “A high relative chlorophyll content means that the area of interest is performing better than areas of low chlorophyll content. Stress from insects, disease or water—either too much or too little—show up as a different color (low values are generally red in color) on the NDVI image.”
Airplanes are much less labor-intensive than drones and allow for many fields to be captured in one flight. Ceres Imaging is an example of an aerial company that offers this service. Ceres offers other layers of data that includes thermal imaging, disturbance index and a chlorophyll index.
“Core thermal imaging shows the relative temperature across the crop canopy,” Helkenn adds. “A warmer temperature means that region of the field is showing stress compared to other regions of the field that show up as relatively cooler.  Cooler relative temperatures mean those areas of the field are performing well.”
Satellite imagery is another option that is delivered through the Climate Corporation or WinField United’s R7 tool,” Helkenn says. “The main difference between satellite and aerial imagery is the level of detail. Aerial imagery can be up to 50x more accurate than satellite imagery; however, many times for the way the information is used in production agriculture, satellite data works just fine.
Putting the Images to Work
These image options provide powerful data that farmers can use to make crop management decisions, according to Helkenn.
“We can use those images to pinpoint problems in fields, such as disease or insects,” says Helkenn. “Then, we can use the images to create a variable rate map and know exactly where to apply fungicide or insecticide.”
Farmers save money by knowing exactly where to apply inputs, so no product is wasted.
Helkenn explains that NDVI maps can also be used for yield prediction, weed pressure, fertility recommendations and drive more accurate seed population maps for variable rate planting.
With all of these options available from Agtegra, contact your local agronomist to find out more about how the image options can make a difference on your operation.