• TerrAvion TerrAvion
  • Aug 01
  • 2 min read

Interpret and apply NDVI and thermal imagery for agronomy

NDVI and thermal imagery offer immense value to growers and agronomists. Both types of imagery provide insights and opportunities for growers to increase their profits and limit loss. High-resolution NDVI imagery shows growers where their crop is thriving and where it is suffering. This information can help them make more profitable input and other management decisions. Thermal image data enables growers to optimize their irrigation systems and manage excessive moisture situations, and can also provide further explanation of crop variability identified in NDVI imagery. Keep reading for some entry-level information on how to interpret TerrAvion NDVI and thermal image layers to gain agronomic insights, and how to apply that information to improve the profitability of your farm operations.

Interpreting and apply NDVI imagery for agronomy

Timely NDVI Imagery has the potential to improve any agronomy program dramatically. High-resolution NDVI data provides a detailed illustration of your field’s health through pixels that are about the size of a human hand. Higher NDVI values indicate higher chlorophyll density and plant biomass, and vice versa. Irregular vigor patterns can be caused by disease or pest stress, fertility issues, water stress, soil fertility issues, equipment failures, weeds, chemical burns, etc. 

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How to use it

As an aerial imagery subscriber, you should review your NDVI imagery as soon as it is delivered and look for irregular patterns. Lower NDVI values represent a stressed crop while higher NDVI values represent a more vigorous crop. Scouting is required to get the full picture of what is happening in your field. NDVI imagery will show you signs of crop stress, but you must ground truth your imagery and correlate what you see in your field to what you are see in your imagery. While trying to make sense of what you are seeing, apply your agronomic expertise and consider all the things you know about the field such as soil makeup, yield data, crop and disease history, etc. Consider how moisture may be contributing and reference thermal imagery for more information on the current moisture situation in your field.  After coming to a conclusion based on all of the information and data available to you, use your NDVI imagery to assess the disposition of the issue(s) in your fields. Next, build a management plan that will address them accordingly, (e.g., make NDVI management zone maps for variable rate applications).  

How to interpret and apply thermal imagery for agronomy  

Moisture is one of the most important parts of raising crops. High-resolution thermal imagery is a powerful tool for monitoring any moisture situation in your fields. Growers can use thermal data for various use cases. With thermal imagery, growers can identify wet areas before they plant, monitor their irrigation and drainage systems to ensure they are functioning efficiently, and address flooded areas after weather events. 

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How to use it

As soon as your irrigation systems are turned on for the season, it is essential to monitor your thermal imagery. Look for hot spots (light colors) that indicate clogged nozzles or areas that are not receiving the intended amount of water. Look for cold spots (dark colors) that indicate leaks, areas that are receiving an excessive amount of water, or areas where drainage systems aren’t functioning correctly. You should also keep an eye out for other suspicious-looking patterns that may indicate other failures such as water pressure issues. Thermal imagery can also be used to manage issues brought on by major weather events. In those situations, look for cold zones that indicate flooded areas prone to nutrient leaching. If you identify an issue, use your thermal imagery to guide remedial actions. Fix clogged nozzles and other irrigation issues, and target flooded areas to improve the drainage system and soil amendments, or for nutrient replenishment applications.

TerrAvion offers 10-17 cm/pixel NDVI imagery and 2m thermal imagery in addition to color and infrared products with overnight processing, delivered at regular intervals for the lowest cost on the market. For more information on or help with how to read and act on thermal and NDVI imagery, please fill out the form below.