About 3 months ago

Can you automate monitoring of crop emergence and crop development using satellite and aerial imagery?

With the beginning of the new season, we are starting to preoccupy ourselves with one single question: “Has the crop emerged? And has it emerged well?” To answer this question you can either (if the situation and local authorities permit) go and walk every field, which would be very time consuming and not very efficient or use remote sensing (satellite/aerial) imagery to track your crop development. 

Since the 2020 crop has just been planted, let’s take 2019 crop data on a potato farm as an example. With dozens if not hundreds of pivots, it is not possible to walk them all in a short space of time to know exactly at what crop growth stage is the crop in each of the pivots. This farm uses satellite and aerial imagery, and FluroSense platform, which you will see the screenshots of below, to monitor their crops and get the “crop status” metrics delivered to them using imagery.

Field-level Crop Cover and Growth Stage estimation

For each individual pivot, using the remote sensing information (NDVI, it’s variability across the field, and its trend of development) the platform automatically determine the crop cover %, and with the addition of the weather data (using agronomic models), it estimates the crop growth stage.

Image of a potato pivot with an NDVI image on the map, and the information popup (zoomed in) with automatically detected crop cover % and estimated growth stage of the crop.

Farm-level crop development assessment

When you look at each individual pivot, you can only make field-specific decisions, whilst for making operational decisions, such as post-emergence herbicide or fertiliser application requires information about crop cover % (CC%) and crop growth stages across all fields on the farm.

Knowing where each of the fields with a particular crop type or variety is in its development, and being able to compare the field’s performance with the average for that crop type/variety allows you to make optimal decisions around the timing of operations and select the order of fields for those operations to be carried out timing it with the crop condition optimal for the application.

Watch a quick 2 min video for an explanation of the use case presented in this article

To aid this farm-level analysis, Crop performance (CC% + growth stages) across the farm can be viewed using a map + dashboard, which allows to sort, filter and benchmark the fields within each crop type/variety.

Farm-level, field performance analysis. Pivot 1 has already emerged and is so far best-performing
Pivot 2, which has the crop of the same variety that Pivot 1 is slightly behind but also shows good emergence
The group of pivots in the Northern part of the farm (3 red circles) have not yet emerge, which is due to the fact that they have a crop of a different variety and are further North.

With this analysis of where each pivot and each crop type/variety is at, available to the operation managers and crop advisors at a glance, many operational decisions can be made! This also gives us information about the planting decisions, and how they can be improved for the next year (selecting an optimal location for planting of a crop type/variety based on its performance and yield in the previous year).

This analysis is handy to do from your tablet or in the office, but what about the time that goes into viewing these status updates regularly? This is something that is addressed with weekly Crop Performance email reports sent to growers, advisors and operations managers updating them on the status of their crop in time for the weekly team meeting!

FluroSense Crop Performance email report from updates growers, crop advisors and farm managers of their crops’ development and growth stages on a weekly basis.

If you would like to have your finger on the “pulse” of the crop’s performance, start utilising remote sensing (satellite and aerial imagery) to aid in your crop monitoring workflows.

With regularly updated imagery, the crop cover % and crop growth stages can be estimated automatically, and then you can selectively ground-truth the estimates, significantly cutting down the time spent “chasing” the crop development.

With weekly reports and the Crop performance dashboard in FluroSense, you can make optimal decisions about operations for each of your fields or crop types in a matter of minutes.

To learn how to utilise this Crop performance estimates, and what sorting and field ranking workflows make sense for your farm, you can always use your last year’s planting details, and access the reports as if they were sent to you back then.

Need to know when the crops reach a certain growth stage to optimise the timing of operations on your farm? Let us know if you would like to have a Crop Performance set up for your farm. All you would need is just to have your field boundaries (in .kml or .shp file format) and a record of what crops your planted in each of the fields!

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