Taking your iPad out in the field to fly a drone sounds like a lot of fun. This “fun” activity is becoming a business task more and more. The agronomists at Landmark Services Cooperative are getting in on the fun by using tablet-controlled drones for field scouting. One of the advantages this provides is quicker scouting times (up to 60% time savings) which means detecting problems faster. I talked with Dan Moehn, VP, Landmark Agronomy, about their use of this new technology. He says they just started using the drones at the beginning of this growing season. While controlling the drone from the tablet they fly to a height of about 100 feet depending on wind conditions which have a real impact on the small devices. The drone can be spun 360 degrees and captures photos and/or video of a lot of ground. Once landed he says they take an immediate look at what conditions look like.
“Whenever you see a field from a different perspective, you’re able to pick up new information,” he says. “If you’re standing at the end of a corn field, you have one perspective but, when you get in the air, you can see a much larger view of the field and can quickly spot areas that need attention.”
Agronomists traditionally scout fields by walking the length of the acreage and looking for problems – a process that may allow for areas to be missed or additional time spent.
“We look at that footage and evaluate the field, looking for any problem spots,” Moehn says. “If we see an area of crop that has signs of a disease or nutrient deficiency, we can then walk to that area of the field and take a closer look.
“We’re looking for early symptoms of disease pressure, nutrient deficiency or injury from insects,” he explains. “Typically, dark green plants are the healthiest. If the plant is showing signs of yellowness, it may be suffering from a nutrient or disease issue that needs further investigation.”
“We can get the results back quickly enough to make a change and promote a good yield,” Moehn says. “Now through pollination is the most critical time for plant development; if we find a problem, we can still make an effort to change things. When it gets later in the season, it becomes much less likely that you’ll be able to fix a problem.”
“The more scouting we can do, the more probable it is that we’ll see problems before they become bigger than they need to be,” Moehn says. “Preventing problems in the field is especially beneficial in a market where every bushel counts.”
You can listen to my interview with Dan here: Interview with Dan Moehn