Submitted to: Agricultural Aviation
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: August 6, 2013
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Citation: Yang, C., Hoffmann, W.C., Fritz, B.K. 2013. Remote sensing and aerial application. Agricultural Aviation. 40(5):23-25. Interpretive Summary: Aerial application of crop protection and crop production compounds effectively safeguards a bountiful supply of food and fiber in the U.S., but further increases in efficiency, profitability, and environmental protection are needed. Use of remote sensing systems will lead to enhanced aerial application efficiency by identifying specific sections of fields where plants are infested by insects, infected by pathogens, or limited in nutrients. Further, remote sensing systems will add value to aerial application programs by offering means to obtain areawide surveys of plant health and to identify the timely need for precision application of pesticides and fertilizers. The use of aircraft-based remote sensing systems in precision agriculture will lead to increased productivity, profitability, and environmental stewardship within the aerial application industry.
Technical Abstract: With the increasing need for global food production in the presence of dwindling productive acres, the business of modern agriculture needs to use all possible information available to maximize production. One tool that is being used to obtain this information is remote sensing. Any crop disease or insect pest that causes significant plant stress or damage may be detected by remote sensing. Remote sensing has evolved from rudimentary film-based cameras to sophisticated digital imaging systems that can provide data on everything from soil type and moisture to plant health down to sub-foot accuracy. This technology has great potential for aerial applications given that most applicators use GPS guidance and many have variable rate systems. These, coupled with data from remote sensing, can be used to precisely identify crop pests and treatment areas to optimize efficiency, minimize environmental impact, and reduce the risk of pest resistance. The USDA-ARS Aerial Application Technology (AAT) group at College Station, TX has successfully used a number of remote sensing technologies for mapping crop growth and yield variability for precision agriculture, assessing crop conditions, detecting crop diseases, and mapping a number of invasive weeds in rangelands and waterways. Over the past several years, the AAT group, in cooperation with Texas AgriLife and Cotton Incorporated, has used multispectral remote imaging systems to monitor the initiation and progression of the disease both within a growing season and across different growing seasons. These data can be used to formulate the site-specific application maps to control the disease. While the example here focused solely on root rot, this technology can in fact be used to support variable rate application of a variety of crop protection and production products, including plant growth regulators, defoliants, fertilizers and herbicides. Timely detection of crop health and pest damage, as well as weeds, is a critical first step for effective aerial variable rate or precision application. On an aerial platform, such as an agricultural plane, these remote imaging systems offer a quick and efficient way of obtaining high quality crop data to guide and maximize effectiveness of applications. One of the AAT group’s research objectives is to develop the image systems and processing routines so that these remote sensing services could be one of the options that an applicator could offer to their customers.