The blur of images in Precision Agriculture
Sandor Fehervari - 2/1/2022
I have a passion for precision agriculture since the first time I heard about it. I’m a data addict too, so when I had access to the first precision harvest map in a .csv file it felt like a little kid experience at Christmas time. That was in 2009… 12 years ago we have access to 6-30m2 granularity of yield and application data from Fields where the farmers used precision agriculture technologies. Although…
What we usually use to visualize and what we associate with precision agriculture is not a data table but an image.
Image 1 - Yield map of Corn field from 2021 harvest
Table 1 - Image 1 Corn Grain Yield Map CSV Export sample
Don’t get me wrong I also like to see colored images, and saw the obvious through the Yield Map results. We are looking on these interpretations in the past 12 years and we still find high satisfaction, with those green yellow and red colors. They are easy to look at and stating the obvious. The question I have in my mind in the past weeks…
if these maps are good enough to support the next stage of Precision Agriculture?
Agriculture is trying to turn the wheel from maximizing production, to maximize production with the minimum amount of input use - with todays buzz word - be more sustainable. The farmer of 2010 did a simple math of what’s the cost of +1 plant or +10kg NPK in the crop technology and what is the potentials yield increase. Therefor they could simple define if they spend the extra EUR/ha with a positive balance against the estimated increase of Yield. Today farmer should think what’s the return of +1 plant or +10kg NPK on their Fields to avoid overuse of fertilizer, or underuse of their field potential. Being more sustainable whit their inputs, avoid extra cost of transportation of seed, or leaching of N in the lower soil layers.
To achieve todays Farmer vision farms have to do their own Field testing, and define technologies for Fields - acknowleding it’s heterogeneity -, comparing the good old 1 crop 1 farm 1-2 technology standard.
The problem is …
how farmers do their testing, with the tools of precision agriculture, if the main tool they use for assessment, is an image with shades of green yellow and red?
I give you an example what made me think so much, and hope to trigger some good thoughts.
Below you see an Urea Prescription Map created and applied in 2021 Spring. If you would like to compare it with the Yield map in image 1 which is the harvest results I put you a comparison on image 3.
Image 2 - Urea Spring application in 2021
Image 3 - Urea Spring application in 2021 as bottom Layer & Yield map of a Corn field from 2021 harvest with 50% transparency
Image 3 is what most of todays farm tools would provide. I could show you a comparison side to side images with a pointer too... At the end most of us won’t be able to tell if the Variable N application increased or decreased the Yield on the Field.
If we analyze the data in a database format, do validation of the Yield Map data, align it with the Spring Application Layer and compare the prescription layers by Field Zones, then we could see this:
Image 4 - Combined Spring application map prescription (30x30m sampling) overlayed with Validated Yield Map data Analyzed by Field Potential Zones and Rx application
Field Potential Zone
Table 2 - Spring application Average Yield summary from Image 4 Box Plot Chart
What’s invisible for the eye through the shade of colors, became clear trend with a few minutes analysis.
The questions arise, how should we support the farmer of today in 2021 to be more sustainable, to step away from colored fields, which shows clear difference of tons, but blur the impact of a few hundreds of kilograms?
How should we support the farmers of today to be more aware of their Fields potential, and test the optimal usage of inputs?
Who will take the next step in PrecisionAg to give tools to those farmers which will show the difference of kilograms and not only the tons…
These are requiered next steps in precision to achieve sustainability targets with Precision Agriculture.
Your get interested in Field Zones, and would try it on your own Fields? We are happy to create your first Zones, and VR Maps to ensure a first good impression.