Using technology to monitor your fields
Sid Parks is GROWMARK’s manager of precision farming.
Posted on: 7/15/2011 12:17:00 PM
You’ve likely heard it said, “You can hear the corn growing!” While my ears are certainly not that good, you can definitely see rapid growth over a just a few days with good moisture and heat that we are experiencing this time of year.
As the corn crop nears full height, walking fields scouting for pests or irregular areas isn’t a lot of fun, especially on hot, humid days. As a result, some producers and service providers alike may settle for scouting things from the road.
In these circumstances, wouldn’t it be great to see what is happening inside the field? One option you might consider is remote sensed imagery.
While not a new technology, remote sensed imagery is gaining popularity in recent years and for several reasons. Among these are increased access, improved technology, larger farms, and higher crop prices.
Several sources of imagery are available, including that taken by satellite or aerial sensors, mounted on airplanes or even smaller remote controlled drones.
Types of image products available vary from simple color or black and white photos, to image products derived from using other wavelengths of light.
The basic principle is plants and soils have unique light absorption and reflectance signatures. This results in the colors and textures being “seen” differently, and be used to render an image product that imitates crop growth or stress.
While these products can be used to identify potential areas of variability in fields, they won’t definitely tell you the cause. They can become the basis for developing management zones, or help direct attention to a particular area in a field for ground-based scouting.
Other uses include monitoring damage from storms, or estimating potential crop yields.
Remote sensed image products use various combinations of light wavelength and reflectance to reveal variation differences in crop performance or occurrences of crop stress.
Types of image products include ground cover or crop density maps, relative greenness maps, soil brightness, and NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index).
Costs for products and services vary based upon product type, image resolution, frequency, and service provider. Higher resolution provides sharper detail, but makes imagery more expensive.
I would encourage you to consider how remote imagery might be of use to you in your future operation management and decision making.
Your FS crop specialist has access to tools and services to help with information management, empowering you to be able to use this information on your farm.
Sid Parks is GROWMARK’s manager of precision farming. His e-mail address is email@example.com.