• TerrAvion TerrAvion
  • Feb 20
  • 2 min read

Imagery solutions for winter wheat growers

United States winter wheat production

Winter wheat accounts for 70 to 80 percent of total wheat production in the United States. The winter wheat acres are down in 2019 due to a particularly wet fall in the Plains that led to a late soybean harvest, however, growers still seeded an estimated 31.3 million acres for 2019. While planted acres may be down, the crop quality is expected to improve again in 2019. In addition to new varietal offerings, practices such as variable rate (VR) nitrogen top dressing and plant growth regulator (PGR) applications are returning positive early results for winter wheat growers.

U.S. Winter Wheat Acres 2019 - USDA Quick States Data*2019 Winter Wheat Acres Planted -USDA Quick Stats Data

Imagery guided variable rate nitrogen applications

Imagery guided VR nitrogen top dressing is a relatively new practice among winter wheat growers, but early returns are positive, and more Great Plains growers and wheat experts are starting to buy in.

While many winter wheat growers have had success in using yield and soil data to guide variable rate applications, recently high-resolution NDVI data provided by imagery has shown to be a strong yield indicator while also offering more contextual information into which factors contributed to yield results. This additional information can make the difference in building an effective variable rate prescription.

The image resolution is key in making imagery guided variable rate applications in wheat. Both drones and aerial imagery providers are solutions that provide a high enough resolution to run a variable rate nutrient program in precisionag.


TerrAvion Winter Wheat NDVI Management Zone Imagery*TerrAvion NDVI Imagery (left) and NDVI Management Zone Map (right)

Imagery guided variable rate PGR applications

Blanket rate PGR applications in wheat are made to control lodging in high-vigor, heavy wheat, but this is achieved at the expense of further stunting low-vigor wheat. For this reason, there is great value in variable rate PGR applications for winter wheat growers, and there is no better tool to guide these variable rate applications than high resolution NDVI imagery delivered at key points throughout the season. NDVI management zone maps allow growers to apply the highest rates of PGR to the heaviest wheat and lower rates to lower performing wheat, controlling the weight of the heavy grass while allowing the low-vigor wheat to continue to grow to achieve its full yield potential.

TerrAvion winter wheat program

TerrAvion offers a winter wheat program of 4-6 aerial flights delivered at key points during the winter wheat season - February (Top Dress), March (Top Dress Evaluation), April (Pre-fungicide), May (Fungicide Evaluation) and June (Harvest). This program includes 18cm NDVI imagery that provides more than enough resolution for VR nitrogen and PGR applications. The 4-6 aerial flights are also supplemented by Sentinel 2 satellite imagery. The flight schedule can be adjusted depending on the weather in regions that the winter wheat program is offered.

Click here for Winter Wheat Program flight schedule.

For more information on the services discussed in this article, please send an email to support@terravion.com or visit our website at www.TerrAvion.com.

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