By: Allyn Francis, Agronomist
Although there has been a lot of buzz on drones over the past several years, we’ve observed very few practical instances where they help growers learn more about their fields. However, this past spring (and part of summer 2019) we flew some fields as a trial run with an aerial imagery service called Taranis. Beyond the basic images standard drones provide, Taranis identifies and pinpoints weeds, insects, individual plants, and deficiencies within a field.
Our first trial flight (June 11) captured a lot of useful imagery that helped identify stand counts and produced emerged stand datapoints with approximately 1 picture for every 2 acres. This first flight proved to be helpful in determining replants and early season weed pressure that escaped pre-emergence application. After ground-truthing these data points, we found the imagery was within +/- 5% of what we found in the field.
On top of the individual stand count report, we also received stand count interpolation over the whole field. With this data, we were able to create an additional layer of new ground level intelligence for these fields. Why does this matter? This provides a way to verify and compare stands against planting data pulled from monitors.
Growers can certainly reap the benefits of the stand counting technology in year one, but the long-term opportunities may be more intriguing. What if we start thinking about possible aggregated data over multiple years, collected in the same way?
For example, this data could be valuable in those areas of a field that continually have seeding mortality. With Taranis, there would now be geo-referenced points where a grower could possibly increase population rates to overcompensate those high-mortality areas. This information could also connect some dots between low performing areas that continually have poor stands. Or, maybe it could show that a low performing area surprisingly has strong stands year after year, which could steer growers to look at other limiting factors.
Accurate stand count data could also give some insight into hybrid choices in specific management zones or soil types. Think about it; if one hybrid in a poor management zone has a mortality rate of 15% more than another hybrid, we are losing $15/acre just to less efficient seeds.
The new layer of data that Taranis provides can help us better understand what is happening to the seed once it’s been planted. With ProVantage, we know where we are planting each seed but after that, we can only provide a field’s population estimate from our in-field scouting. Pairing this information with Taranis would give growers the power to follow seed performance more closely throughout the growing season. This, on top of the ability to better track high seed loss areas, could be helpful in pivoting management practices.
To learn more about incorporating Taranis into your decision making toolbox, give myself or Chase Gingerich a call.