Tag Archives: Agronomy

Mavrx – Crop Imagery Meets Crop Scouting

Crop Imagery Meets Crop ScoutingIn the world of precision agriculture, it seems that the number of crop imagery companies is multiplying faster than rabbits at the local county fair.

There is one company, however, that is looking to be different by putting a high-tech twist on crop imagery by mixing it with crop scouting. The name of this company is called Mavrx and it is taking its hybrid concept to the air in full force for the 2015 growing season.

Using in-season images to aid the actual boots on the ground task of crop scouting is nothing new. However, the way Mavrx does it – and the product that it delivers — is what sets it apart in this increasingly crowded field.

The secret sauce of Mavrx is that it takes the images and identifies the hotspots and trouble spots within a field before they are delivered to you. Mavrx automatically tells you where and how important these areas are before you get there. You know exactly how many acres the problems may be, plus the severity of the problem and the calculated economic impact to date. Think of it as your own John Madden chalkboard for crop scouting.Mavrx Screenshot

Crop scouting has traditionally been a very labor intensive task requiring not only long days but also a high-level skill set. The problem is that no matter how long the days are, there just aren’t enough hours to cover more acres and be effective.  Plus, in the past most of the scout’s time was spent in the field looking for problems instead of solving them.  You might have been within 50 feet of a growing aphid infestation, and you would miss the whole thing. These issues are going to be a bigger problem as farms and fields grow in size, while the number of veteran agronomists is not keeping pace.

Mavrx seeks to leverage such agronomy expertise by providing a product that allows agronomists and producers to monitor more acres more effectively.  This is accomplished by streamlining and refining the delivery of the product to the end-user.  Mavrx knew the first issue with past imagery products is that by the time the picture of the field had been taken and delivered, the value of the image had already become stale.  Mavrx seeks to deliver a fully processed product with 24 to 48 hours. You are personally notified by email and text when a new image is ready for you in your personal cloud account on the Mavrx web-based dashboard. Think of it as Instagram for your farm’s fields.

Mavrx’s intent is to make their online dashboard your in season flight control center where you can view changes within a field during the season. You can also integrate Mavrx imagery with other key GIS data to help provide underlying clues as to what is causing certain issues within a field, such as data to help identify troublesome wet spots and historical yield maps to see if such problems have appeared in the field before in similar locations. As a bonus to users, Mavrx is providing multiple years’ worth of field imagery from LandSat satellite imagery library to establish historical markers when evaluating current high-resolution imagery.

Mavrx on Desktop, Tablet and MobileThe functionality of the Mavrx imagery doesn’t stop at scouting. That is only one of the many possible uses for the imagery. When delivered to a user’s dashboard account, the imagery is already geo-referenced and in the correct file format (such as a GeoTiff) so that it can be easily exported to other popular GIS programs (like SST, SMS and MapShots) to create in-season prescriptions for nitrogen, or even targeted pest management.

One of the final feathers in Mavrx’s cap is the diversity of the imagery that you get from a flight. Currently, most of the imagery is flown by manned aircraft, with many of them equipped to capture regular, NDVI and also thermo images simultaneously.  Unlike many other providers who only provide one image type, with Mavrx you literally get three for the price of one. That’s a big deal: each image type has certain advantages. Veteran agronomists say that NDVI is better at telling them whether plants are hungry and need nutrients like nitrogen, while thermo does a better job of detecting whether plants are sick. Many times a thermo image can detect stress days before a regular or NDVI image.

By delivering imagery with a purpose Mavrx has set itself apart in this crowded field. Agronomists and producers who want to learn how Mavrx can help improve their field scouting and in-season crop management contact William Underwood at Prime Meridian at 660-492-5626 or via email: william.underwood@primemeridiandata.com. For more details on Mavrx check them out on the web at: www.mavrx.co.

“Paint-by-Numbers” Agronomy: A Black Eye for Precision?

A disturbing trend is emerging within precision agriculture creating a literal agronomic minefield. And growers are walking right dangerously into the bloodshed because the shiny new precision technology has blinded them from reality.

New Pitfalls

As the pendulum of precision technology has swung from the fascination of automated steering to more agronomic based hardware applications it presents some potential new pitfalls.

Sales of new planters have skyrocketed in recent years and most are decked out with individual row clutches, singulation seed monitoring, automated down-pressure and variable-rate seeding capability. What’s cooler than being able to variable-rate your seed population when going through a field? Sure, you’ve got to use it. Sort of like having a T-top Trans-Am and still obeying the speed limit. Hey, even I can’t drive 55.

In attending many of the Precision Planting grower meetings in our region one question is always asked of the group – “How many of you have variable-rate capability on your planter?” Typically, over 50 percent and sometimes upwards of 70 percent of the farmers in the group have planters capable of variable-rate.

Then comes the follow-up question – “How many of you ACTUALLY utilize variable-rate prescription seeding?” Crickets. Usually, less than two or three hands in a crowd of 60 farmers goes up.

Why so few? The answer is simple – many farmers have not done their agronomic precision homework over the past several years. Multiple years yield monitor data – the foundation for sound variable-rate agronomics – either doesn’t exist, is incomplete or frankly is so flawed you’d be better off saying the dog ate your homework!

Too Many Shortcuts

But instead of buckling down and collecting vital historical precision production data, many growers are looking for a shortcut to “agronomic” precision. Unfortunately, some precision hardware companies, so-called precision consultants and proclaimed agronomists are selling “precision agronomy in a can” or what I like to call “black box agronomy.” In other words, they are offering a “shortcut” to the precision “promise land” and growers are buying it.

Some may offer growers the ability to “variable-rate by soil-type” right from their monitor screen. In essence, it’s the precision equivalent of the old pre-school exercise “paint-by-numbers”. No one knows what numbers to put in but you sure have a pretty map when you’re done planting. Meanwhile, some consultants may “create zones” from something like a Veris machine, which reads the electro-conductivity of the soil (EC). From the readings some consultants are creating “zones” and that is the sole data they hang their hat on when it comes to variable-rate.

All these one-and-done methods are extremely shortsighted and each is like handing a grower an agronomic grenade with the pin pulled. Someone is going to get hurt because they don’t know what they’re doing or they’re in a hurry and don’t understand the agronomic and management consequences.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to making agronomic decisions with modern precision tools is that there is no substitute for due diligence. Do your homework! Let your own data – layers and layers of it – tell you the story over time. Good precision takes time. Just think of it as if the Bible ended with the Book of Genesis. As we know, there was a lot more that came after that!

What My Great Granddad Taught Me about Precision Ag Farming

Turns out precision agriculture may not be so new after all.  In fact, all the bells and whistles of this technology may just be getting us back to where my great grandfather was at more than 80 years ago.

Recently, I came across some old black and white photographs of my great granddad, Elmer Cubbage, of when he was farming the drylands of Colorado during the Dust Bowl days and also the current family farm here in southwest Missouri.

When it came to the land that he farmed he was in touch with it both literally and figuratively.  He not only knew tendencies of every acre he farmed but every inch of soil that fit between the fencerows.  That’s because he saw it close up as he tilled the land with his team of draft horses or observed the production of every stalk of corn as he picked each ear by hand.  He knew exactly which area of field needed more manure from the barn lot and which areas didn’t.

Today, we cover the land with giant iron machines that accomplish in only a few minutes what it took my great granddad from sunup to sundown to do.   You could call it blink of the eye farming – doing in seconds what once took hours.  But you also know the saying “if you blink you’ll miss it?”  I believe that became the case with modern farming – it became more about the acres covered than it did about the agronomy practiced.  In our efforts to become more efficient we forgot how to be effective.

The technologies of precision agriculture are focused at getting back to where my great granddad started – treating each acre uniquely in order to be the most effective.  With practices like GPS grid soil sampling, variable-rate applications and seeding, remote satellite sensor technologies and combine yield maps we are looking at each acre, each plant in order to manage for higher yields and higher returns per acre.

I’m sure my great granddad Elmer would marvel at the size, complexity and efficiency of today’s modern agricultural machines.  But at the same time I’d bet he would crack a smile knowing that as much as things have changed one thing didn’t – the rules of agronomy.  Today, the politically correct term for caring for each acre and every plant is called precision agricultural management.  I think my great granddad would have simply called it farming!