Field edge analysis platform delivers the news fast

Sentera’s new software allows growers to send their drones out 
to gather photos, determine trouble spots and take action quickly

Farmers who access early warning data on poor emergence have the opportunity to spray out or rip up those tardy acres for replanting or go in with remedial nutrition to rescue them.

The key is to know as soon as possible after emergence if you need to take such action.

One week too late can easily mean a missed opportunity to salvage significant income. Waiting for a professional to fly suspect fields for you might cost that extra week, something prairie farmers often can’t afford.

This is precisely what Sentera had in mind this spring in launching its new Field-Edge Plant Population Analysis program.

The Minnesota-based crop imaging company says the platform does exactly what the name implies.

From the edge of your field, it addresses the fundamental issue of putting tools in grower’s hands so they create their own crop emergence maps quickly and when they want them. It means better odds of turning those slow acres into profitable acres instead of writing them off.

Timing is the significant feature of the system. Farmers themselves run their own Field-Edge Plant Population Analysis program using RGB images generated by their own drones. There’s no waiting for an outside party to arrive.

If a grower wants emergence maps Wednesday morning at 10 a.m., he loads his drone and heads out to the field, where he’s able to generate instant accurate in-field emergence maps mere moments after flying a field.

The analytic program calculates an emergence measurement and visually depicts results with a coloured heat map at the side of the field. It shows where plants are growing and not growing during critical early growth stages.

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The grower, along with his agro-nomist or crop consultant, can then make replant decisions on the spot. The equipment can be out in those delinquent zones half an hour later.

The closed beta program is available to clients in Western Canada who subscribe to the AgVault software platform, said Kris Poulson, Sentera’s vice-president of agriculture.

“Right now, we’re working with V4 corn, so the plants are touching in-row. We’re quickly getting the system to work with V3 corn and then soon with V2 corn,” said Poulson.

“That means you’ll be able to use your own drone imagery in V2 corn to find the problem areas and deal with them right away. It gives you instant field-edge data on which plants emerged and which didn’t so you can make informed decisions. Is your best course of action to dig up, chemically kill or inter-seed weak areas with short-season faster-maturing varieties?

“Replant is the one thing that comes to mind when you hear ‘stand analysis,’ right? Here’s the flip side. The client has this shape file map in the cab, so he can think about nutrient management. Now he has information to help him decide if he wants to bump up the nitrogen or fungicide in the healthy stand and maybe cut back in the weak areas. And it’s based on real data gathered that same day.”

Poulson said that, conversely, some clients this year have decided to use their stand analysis data to apply TLC to those poor areas in an attempt to rehabilitate them and turn them into productive corn acres. The earlier that decision can be made, the greater the odds of it working.

“We see this more often in the prairie pothole regions where you get bad stands in the low areas,” Poulson said.

“If you can identify and chart those bad stands with your drone, then you can count the acres and make a better decision about what to do.

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“If you plow down, you don’t necessarily have to put those acres back into corn. I owned a crop insurance agency for many years. I had clients who ripped up poor corn acres and put them into soybeans. And not just if you have to do the whole field. It’s worthwhile even if you’re doing a big piece like 50 or 60 acres. If the corn fails, guys figure it’s better to put that piece into beans rather than turn it black for the whole year.”

Poulson said the platform produces an emergence heat map that’s seamless and easy to use. The grower simply scouts a field using a drone-based RGB sensor.

AgVault quickly performs algorithms to produce a colour-coded Plant Population Analysis map within the respective boundary. The result is instantly delivered to the user in AgVault.

All features are available at field edge without an internet connection or upload and to AgVault web and cloud users once the data is uploaded.

“We’re targeting corn right now, but we’re having real good results with soybeans, sugar beets, potatoes and a few others.”

Poulson said the new software is not necessarily tied to Sentera systems, the company they can guarantee excellent results when a farmer does use its systems.

He said Field Edge Plant Population is compatible with many other systems on the market, as long as they can carry the Sentera AgVault platform.

Field Edge runs with nearly all geo-referenced RGB imagery systems, and the list of compatible systems grows daily.

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