A Drone service provider in Minnesota has devised an innovative method of estimating crop yield and analysing the health and vigor of plants—using a drone-sourced surface model to visualise biomass.
Over the past year, agronomy service provider Anez Consulting of Little Falls, Minnesota, has begun employing what appears to be a unique method of analysing crop health and estimating yields: when methods such as NDVI analysis struggle to illuminate in-field variability, its team uses specialised software (That RocketMine also uses) to transform drone imagery into a digital surface model (DSM), which is used to visualise the biomass variability of full-canopy crops.
The company’s precision agriculture specialist, Michael Dunn, explains: “I’m originally from Northern California where LIDAR is often used on manned aircraft to remotely measure the height of trees. When I learned of the 3D mapping potential, I realised we could do the same thing on corn and other crops utilising photogrammetry instead of LIDAR.”
By taking the difference between the drone-sourced DSM at full canopy and the topography of the field, Dunn isolates the height of the crop and maps this out across the entire field. “This is a new way for us to look at the condition, health, and vigor of corn (and other crops), across different soil types and management zones to delineate crop health and yield potential,” he says. “It is not a method we totally rely upon and use frequently, but it can be a great tool when other methods fail to accurately highlight in-field differences.”
According to Dunn, mapping out relative biomass can enhance the estimation of crop yields, validate management zones and more.
In order to verify the validity of the relative biomass mapping method, Dunn and his team sampled corn from the same field based on the relative biomass map above.
Where plant population is high, plants will naturally grow taller as they compete for sunlight, which should result in higher biomass. Where plant population is lower, even on good soils, plants will grow shorter, resulting in lower biomass.
With Precision Agriculture becoming a norm in the United States of America, will South African’s also follow the cost-cutting measures?
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- With thanks to Sensefly