Local Farms Get a Bird’s Eye View | UAVs on Benton County Farms

Every season we see local farmers checking fields, counting bean pods, inspecting ears of corn or checking for damage dealt out by Mother Nature. While field scouting isn’t new, the methods and tools available continually evolve. New technology, in the form of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) aka Drones, has made its way onto many local farms. This month I talked shop with several area farmers about their thoughts and experience with UAVs. While the uses are varied, the consensus is that a bird’s eye view of the farm can have a real impact.

“When you fly over you get an immediate sense of the whole field and a better perspective of your crop,” says agronomist Jason Carlile of Otterbein.

For the past two seasons, Jason has utilized his personal UAV to scout his fields; identifying issues affecting yields as well as opportunities to improve the bottom line.Carlile’s approach to Agronomy and customer service blends years of practical on-the-farm experience with the latest in technology – giving his farm land and seed customers an edge in terms of weather impact and timing of chemical applications to fields.

“When we can see an entire field that hasn’t tasseled, we can gauge how effect fungicide will be,” says Carlile. “This equates to bottom line value and real dollars.”

How Agricultural Drones Can Help Farmers

  • Early Detection of Weed Pressure
  • Identifying Streaks / Nitrogen Deficiency
  • Timing of fungicide applications
  • Identify the extent of wind / hail / drainage Issues
  • Assist decision-making for input expenses

Most farmers would agree that the first ten (10) rows of a field do not tell the entire story. But, which direction do you go to get the full picture? Is 100 feet in the field far enough? 500 feet?  “When you catch problems in the field early on, before they get bad, there is a real impact on the bottom line. Aerial scouting can accomplish this and save me time,” commented Doug Brummet.

Consider this scenario: A big storm, with high winds and hail passes through Benton County. On the drive to the coffee shop you notice outside rows are damaged… But what does your entire field look like?  “A flyover after a wind event or hail storm would be very beneficial,” said another local producer.  Crop insurance is there for you, but a whole field photo or video goes a long way toward peace of mind.

In terms of input costs and ROI, Mark Flook added, “As margins tighten, an investment into aerial scouting could really provide great ROI. A better handle on crop conditions can help with a more informed decision; that can be the difference in several bushels per acre.”

While aerial field scouting can give people a real sense of confidence in their cash crop, seed, and chemical investments there are some restrictions and limitations. Currently the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not allow agricultural drones to be used for commercial purposes. There are also privacy concerns as well as air restrictions that have to be taken into account. The story about the future of agricultural drones is still unfolding; currently they fly a fine line between regulation and agronomic value.

If your great-grandpa had told a story that someday tractors would practically drive themselves, he might have gotten some good laughs at the kitchen table. With aerial field scouting already a reality, what kind of stories will the next generation be telling about the family farm?

In related news, read more about how Benton County Indiana buzzes with new Amazon wind farm

And in our interview with Max Armstrong, he talks about importance of UAVs in agriculture

Local Farms Get a Bird's Eye View | UAVs on Benton County Farms Johnny Klemme Land Broker Farm Real Estate Indiana

About the Author

Johnny Klemme is a published author, graduate of Purdue and Professional Farmland Broker. Born and raised on a local farm, his commentary, interviews with Ag experts & reporting on issues important to farming and land real estate can be found at www.PrairieFarmland.com

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