September is here, and with it comes the start of the harvest season. But before you turn your attention to harvesting, beware of issues in your fields that may exhibit late occurring signs of trouble. One type of yield-robbing problem in particular that has a tendency to show up later in the season is equipment failure. Many equipment failure issues only become evident at a time when most growers are not closely monitoring their fields as they prepare for harvest.
Equipment issues, and in particular, issues with sprayers and applicators, can negatively impact plant growth and yield in ways that are not always identifiable on the field level or from the combine. If the malfunction of these sprayers and applicators is significant enough to affect crop growth, high-resolution NDVI imagery can identify that crop vigor variation. From an aerial perspective, issues that are not easily identified on the ground level suddenly become readily apparent.
In the midst of a recent season, a TerrAvion grower in Kansas was faced with a situation similar to the one described above. While the grower was preparing for harvest season, a TerrAvion representative was reviewing imagery when he noticed a significant striping pattern throughout the growers field (left field in the image to the right). The markings actually looked similar to what we typically see from growers planting alternating trial rows. The grower, however, had no explanation for the striping pattern as there was no test ongoing in the field. The TerrAvion representative put a drone into the air to verify what he was seeing in the TerrAvion imagery, and sure enough, the striping was also seen in the drone imagery below. After investigating all possible causes, the grower found that it was an issue with the flow regulator on his planter. The flow regulator on the right half of the planter was incorrectly applying a 15% lower rate of nitrogen than the intended amount. The rows that were planted with the malfunctioning half displayed less crop vigor than the rows planted with the proper functioning part of the planter. This is what was detected with TerrAvion NDVI imagery.
Unfortunately for this farmer, the malfunctioning planter was used on all of his acres that spring. Across his entire farm, the grower estimated a profit loss of $30,000. Although the farmer did lose a lot of money, fortunately, the issue was detected and corrected before it was repeated in the following season. Next spring, the planter was fixed, and the striping pattern was no longer visible in the field (right field in the image above).
If you are a TerrAvion customer, be sure to get the full value out of your imagery subscription by reviewing each image you receive as part of your plan. A brief review of your imagery at any point in the season can turn up issues that could cost you thousands of dollars if not corrected. For more information on using TerrAvion imagery for late-season issue detections, please complete the form below: