Looking across much of the Midwest, you don't have to look far to see crops that are stressed by the lack of moisture and high temperatures, but do you know exactly where the worst stress is showing up? If you had a map of your field, could you explain why some areas are showing more stress than others?
Many times, mother nature has more to say about what can be done than we do, but there is still a lot of value in understanding the why of crop stress in different parts of your fields.
One quick and simple tool to evaluate plant health is aerial imagery. This is nothing new, as aerial imagery has been around for several decades, but is has never before been as quick, simple, and affordable as it is today. UAV's, or drones, have put the tools in the farmers' hands to quickly evaluate what is going on in the fields throughout the growing season, and better manage the operation with timely information. Advances in technology have made this process very simple, and reduced the potential for capturing poor data, automating much of the process during capture and processing.
This leads to a map like the one below, which I captured on one of my fields on June 16th, and have a clear idea of where the stress is, and where the best potential is for the rest of this growing season. This map could be translated into a side-dress fertilizer recommendation, allowing a variable rate application.
This map was produced with the Autel Evo II, capturing images on an autonomous flight plan, then stitched together in DroneDeploy's cloud based software, which has the built in ability to create a crop health map with the click of a single button from the regular RGB images captured from the UAV.
Even if there is not a clear action necessary from the data captured, the same field can be flown at different times throughout the year, and can help with longer term management decisions like creating management zones, adding tile, and a host of other items. Having the ability to better understand what is happening in your fields throughout the growing season is priceless.