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Drone crop scouting can be beneficial to farmers

by | May 15, 2020

Precision spray drone research in Maryland is planned for the 2021 growing season and the expectations in the industry peg commercial availability for 2023. (Photo courtesy Carl Wise)

SEVERNA PARK, Md. — If advancements continue at their present pace, drone technology is expected to have a significant impact on Delmarva crop farming over the next several years.
The Maryland Soybean Board has sponsored investigation into this new capability for several years.
Current drones can provide high resolution overhead crop field maps throughout the growing season.
Among the many applications is an early crop stand analysis to help estimate yield.
Another sout drone application is to evaluate crop damage. In Caroline County, Md., heavy rain the month of June 2018 had damaged seedling emergence and re-seeding decisions had to be made. Through soybean board-funded research, drone crop scouting analysis showed that one field had only 47-percent seedling emergence which can better inform on the cost and value to replant.
Damage maps were provided to guide the replanting and drone scouting in July showed the productive crop stand improved to 87 percent with parts of the field still very wet.
“Drone crop scouting will improve over the next several years with better drones, sensors and processing which will enable better performance at lower cost,” said Carl Wise, owner of Precision Ag Drone Technology who was part of the soybean board research. “The ag industry is developing advanced sensors and image processing to identify and map “crop stress” before it is visible from the ground.”
Wise added the advancements mean that precision prescriptions can be applied earlier and more effectively. As these new scout drone capabilities become available, they can be transitioned to Delmarva crop farming for improved profitability and overall sustainability.
One of the key developments underway is precision drone spraying. Research from the University of Maryland Agriculture estimates that 30% of crop farming costs are for weed management.
Precision drone spraying for weed management can significantly reduce cost and environmental impact by spraying only problem areas rather than entire fields. Spray drone testing in Maryland is planned for the 2021 growing season at the expectations in the industry put peg commercial availability for 2023.

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