Thermal imagery provides excellent value for agriculture as a tool to monitor moisture. Whether it's identifying and mapping flooded or water-stressed areas, or irrigation or drainage system problems, high-resolution thermal data can help growers detect water management issues before they negatively impact yield. Often one of the first ways TerrAvion users implement their imagery is by using thermal imagery to manage their center pivot systems.
How it works
As active center pivots make their way around a field, they leave a cool thermal swath behind. A properly functioning center pivot should show a consistent colored pattern with thermal imagery that is mostly uniform along the pivot. Streaked patterns along an active pivot indicate that those areas are not receiving the prescribed amount of water. Causes for this can vary, with the most common reason being a nozzle failure. Center pivot nozzle failures leave a warm thermal ring that sticks out against the cool thermal swath left by the properly irrigated areas. These patterns are rather easy to identify in thermal imagery and even easier to fix. Growers can drop a pin at the exact location of the faulty nozzle on the imagery in TerrAvion Mobile, share their imagery with the person who is going to fix it who then knows the exact location that needs to be repaired.
Towards the end of the 2019 season, a grower was harvesting his cornfield when he noticed a large area of poor crop vigor towards the center of his field. The grower didn't scout the area during the season or check that his pivot was operating correctly. Because the issue was at the center of the field, he didn't realize there was a problem until he got into his combine when it was time to harvest. When the grower finished harvesting the field, the yield map showed to the full extent of the damage; a 25-acre circle at the center of the pivot yielded significantly less than that rest of the field (red/orange area at the center of the yield map image to the right). The 25-acre area ended up yielding 180 bushels/ac compared to 220 bushels/ac for the rest of the field. A 40 bushels/ac loss on 25-acres amounts to 1000 bushels. At a price of $3.89/bushel, the grower ended up with a $3,890 loss from an issue that could've been prevented using TerrAvion thermal imagery.
The loss that this grower suffered could've been avoided. Upon learning of this issue, the farmer talked to his agronomist who ordered historical imagery from TerrAvion to see if the issue could've been detected and avoided. The TerrAvion thermal imagery revealed a warm thermal pattern at the center of the pivot in early July (yellow area at the center of the image to the left), a clear indication of water stress, and an issue with the pivot nozzles. An annual subscription of weekly TerrAvion images would have cost this grower about $600 on his 120-acre field.
Automatic irrigation failures notifications
Because irrigation failures happen so frequently, TerrAvion partner FluroSat together with Crop Quest developed a tool to automatically detect these issues. That product PIVOThermo, is now available for all through Crop Quest and FluroSat.
PIVOThermo automatically analyses TerrAvion's thermal imagery weekly and finds irrigation issues. Once the imagery is captured, PIVOThermo will run the analysis and identify nozzles that are non-uniformly distributing the water across the pivot, even at the earliest stages of nozzle malfunctioning. An alert then provides the exact location of the nozzle to be examined. The FluroSat PIVOThermo alerts growers or agronomists who are managing a large number of acres and don't have time to monitor and analyze their imagery on their own.
Although TerrAvion thermal imagery works perfectly well on it’s own to detect irrigation system failures, PIVOThermo offers a convenient and time-saving way to never miss any irrigation issues on your pivots.