Precision Agriculture

A great way to get a snapshot of the health of your crop.

crop-vigor-zone-mapInfrared imagery has always been one of the best ways to see what’s really going on in your fields. The bird’s eye view, plus the fact that infrared shows things the human eye can’t see, combine to create a valuable tool for the producer. Whether it’s for spotting nutrient deficiencies or creating a zone map for variable rate applications, imagery is a great way to get a snapshot of the health of your crop. grapesWe work with a team of experienced imaging pilots to provide almost real time images to our grower customers. Whether it’s corn, soybeans, cotton, potatoes, rice, wheat, or specialty crops we can deliver infrared images within a day or two after they are taken. As variable rate (VR) application and VR seeding has evolved, the need for VR ‘zone’ maps has increased. So we also offer simplified zone maps derived from the infrared image. These maps divide your field into 3-5 zones that show the weakest to the strongest parts of the field. We can provide a digital version of this zone map that is compatible with Deere, Case IH, and other common variable rate systems.

AERIAL VS. SATELLITE - Click to learn the difference

We’ve been involved in using aerial and satellite imagery for assessing crop health for over 25 years. There has always been a debate about satellite versus aerial. A term you must understand in order to compare the two is resolution. Resolution refers to the area on the ground covered by each pixel of the imagery. When people say ‘one meter resolution’ they are referring to pixels that cover an area on the ground that is one meter by one meter in size. However it is very misleading to imply that imagery with one meter pixels (approx. 3’ x 3’) means you can see a 3’ x 3’ problem in your field. The reality is a problem in your field has to be TWICE the resolution before you can be sure you can see it in imagery.

Aerial imagery is usually higher resolution and only a day or two old, but it’s more expensive than satellite imagery. It’s still a great value if taken early enough in the season to correct problems that are seen in the imagery. You can get a high resolution (1’-3’ pixels) image of your farm that’s less than 72 hours old for almost any place in the country for $1-3 per acre. That’s one service we offer. We work with a network of pilots and we process the images ourselves. We have processed imagery for literally millions of farmed acres.

Satellite imagery has steadily improved over the last 30 years but a current satellite image will probably cost less than an aerial. And despite what you may have seen in the movies, unless you’re farming in Afghanistan the best imagery you can get for your farm is probably aerial. However, satellite imagery from previous years is sometimes the lowest cost way to create a good zone map. The key is finding an image from a previous year that is a ‘typical year’ (if there is such a thing in farming). An alternative is to combine satellite images over several years to create an ‘average productivity’ map that will suffice in most years.