Thermal imagery is an ideal tool for irrigation management as thermography data strongly correlates to the presence of moisture in a field. Having the ability to accurately identify moisture levels in your fields can help you see where your irrigation systems are applying the appropriate amount of water and where they may be applying excessive or insufficient amounts of water. This information can help you spot irrigation failures in your fields early enough to fix the issues before they negatively impact your yield.
Let's take a look at how four separate TerrAvion growers used their thermal imagery to identify irrigation failures in their fields.
As active center pivots make their way around a field, they leave a cool thermal swath behind where they have most recently delivered water. A properly functioning center pivot should leave a consistent thermal swath that is mostly uniform along the pivot. Warm thermal patterns along an active pivot indicate that those areas are receiving an insufficient 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. The image to the right is an example of what a center pivot nozzle failure looks like with thermal imagery. The white arrow is pointing to one of the few nozzle failures along this pivot. These patterns are rather easy to identify in thermal imagery and even easier to fix. Growers can pinpoint the exact location of the faulty nozzle and can make the fix in a matter of minutes. Identifying center pivot failures is an easy way for growers to find value in imagery, and replacing malfunctioning nozzles alone can pay for a season's worth of imagery for that field.
For growers using furrow irrigation systems on their farm, the same principles mentioned above apply. Where water is flowing correctly, thermal imagery will appear as a consistent cool zone. Water-stressed areas that are not receiving the proper amount of water will appear hot. The image to the left shows a furrow irrigated field. The darker colors reflect cold thermal areas where water is flowing correctly, and the lighter colors represent warm thermal areas. The two black arrows are pointing to warm areas where the furrows are blocked and where water is not flowing. Once identified, growers can dig out the clogged furrows, allowing the water to resume its correct flow.
For drip tape irrigation systems on high-value crops such as grapes and hops, one thing growers are typically looking for is leaks along their tape. Excessive irrigation in high-value crops can negatively impact fruit quality, which can result in a loss of profits. Drip tape leaks are easily identified in thermal imagery. In the image to the right, the white arrows are pointing to cool thermal zones that have formed due to a leak in the drip tape. TerrAvion's weekly imagery with overnight delivery provides timely information that helps growers catch and address these issues before they have a chance to negatively impact fruit quality.
With any type of irrigation system, the issue can sometimes lie out of sight with a larger pump system that brings water to the smaller nozzles and applicators. In the example to the left, the underground piping that brings the water to this drip tape system sprung a leak underneath part of this vineyard. The grower knew that there was a major leak, but couldn't find the exact location of the issue. After looking at his thermal imagery, he was able to pinpoint the location of the issue. The purple, cool thermal spot reveals the leak. This grower was able to minimize the impact on his vineyard by precisely excavating down to the problem that he had identified instead of digging around further into his vineyard where he believed the source of the problem was located.
These issues all have the potential to negatively impact yield. Making the actual correction to the problem is usually a quick and inexpensive process. The real challenge for growers in addressing these issues is identifying them, and TerrAvion thermal imagery allows growers to do that before they even step foot in their field.
Irrigation management is one of the many ways TerrAvion can help you increase your profits. For more information on high-resolution aerial imagery as an irrigation management solution, please fill out the form below.