Aerial Imaging

An Eye in the Sky: NDVI Aerial Imaging

NDVI stands for Normal Difference Vegetation Index and can be considered as an "in season yield map". NDVI measures the health of the plants relative to other plants within the field, and is very highly correlated to a yield map. The valuable part is that we can scout/determine issues that are affecting the health of the plant prior to harvest. Some things may be irreversible for the current year, but changes can be made for the next. In some ways it is actually better then a yield map, since the degree of detail is down to the row, whereas a yield map is only down to the size of the harvest header. A few of the many things that can be learned from calibrated NDVI image include:

  • Equipment Problems: Compaction, pinch rows, wheel tracks, depth control issues, application errors. Some of these things would not show up on a yield map, or even to the naked eye.
  • Locate Tile. Depending on the spring rains and residue situation, many times tile can be visible as the soil starts to drain for a brief period after a spring shower. We can then trace the lines which would allow them to be easily located.
  • Nutrient Deficiencies. Unhealthy plants can be scouted and determine if it is caused by a nutrient deficiency or other problems. Tissue tests could then be taken and compared with soil samples to determine the cause and if there is a way to correct at that point or in the future.
  • Insects & Disease Pressure. As diseases and insects attack plants, they lose their vigor and health this could potentially help identify those fields to treat with an insecticide/fungicide program.

These are only a few of the potential benefits, and many more will be discovered throughout the year. This is a relatively new concept in the precision farming area, but you will start to see and hear about it much more frequently. We are very optimistic about the technology, and feel with proper use could open up a lot of opportunities to help you learn more about your fields and improve yields and profitability.