Next-Level Field Scouting with Satellite Imagery
Analyzing cropland photos from space is a problem-solving game changer
When it’s scouting and fieldwork season, wouldn’t it be nice to have an extra set of hands, or eyes, to help you spot potential problem areas across your fields?There was a time when new technology being introduced for farmers seemed more like fancy (and expensive) toys than tools, but satellite imagery is not one of them. You can actually use it—today—to your advantage. And through the membership in the FBN network, it’s available to you at no extra charge.
How is satellite imagery being used for farming?
There are many use cases for satellite imagery in agriculture. It is common to take the different measurements from the satellite (e.g. red, green, blue, near-infrared) and calculate metrics/indices that help estimate crop health.
NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) is a popular vegetation index, but FBN is providing EVI (Enhanced Vegetation Index) images. Both NDVI and EVI measure vegetation biomass by looking at the difference in light reflected in near-infrared (which healthy vegetation strongly reflects) and visible (which healthy vegetation absorbs) bands. However, EVI compensates for atmospheric distortions and distortions due to the ground cover below the canopy. In addition, EVI has higher sensitivity to dense vegetation.
The images in FBN accounts give you the ability to review imagery on a regular basis and detect problematic areas in a field, everything from pest and weed pressure to a clogged irrigation nozzle.
Are there any obstacles to getting pictures of my crops and fields via satellite imagery?
Sure there are. No technology is perfect, but satellite imagery has advanced tremendously over the years, and the images are helpful for detecting problematic parts of your fields.
Keep in mind it is taking a picture from space. If clouds and other obstacles do block the satellite’s view of cropland, you should get an indication of that in your map-viewing program. It might appear as a grey patch, for example.
Reviewing multiple layers of imagery, and having several images at different stages of crop development, will provide the most useful imagery of activity in your fields.
What can farmers do with these images and their data?
In short, satellite imagery allows farmers to be even better scouts and problem solvers, and this is a big time-saver.
- You can review fields before driving to and walking them.
- You can scout specific areas and parts of fields that are difficult to reach, whether that’s because the crop is too high to walk out and inspect, or because it’s difficult to reach due to terrain.
- You can get ahead of crop health issues by spotting issues early, prioritizing where to investigate them further and, hopefully, catch an issue before it becomes a widespread problem.
For example, a farmer logs in, navigates to maps and looks at their newest field images. Let’s say that the farmer sees a spot on one of his/her fields that appears to be behind on development. As a result, the farmer drives out to that field, checks out the spot and realizes he has a clogged nozzle in their irrigation equipment. The farmer clears the nozzle and the area of the field recovers, increasing overall performance in that field.
Interested in satellite imagery from the FBN network?
Satellite imagery is now accessible directly within FBN Maps and is included with FBN membership at no extra charge. Any member who has field boundaries draw in FBN will receive satellite images.
MODIS (website). Retrieved from https://modis.gsfc.nasa.gov/data/dataprod/mod13.php
Earth Observatory (website). Retrieved from https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/MeasuringVegetation/measuring_vegetation_4.php