Using Drones in Precision Agriculture for Corn

Count stalks, monitor plant stress, and manage nutrients in your cornfields

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From counting plants to planning inputs, corn farmers can improve how they manage their crops throughout the growing season by using drone technology.

Volatile markets and changing weather put unprecedented stress on corn farmers: dips in prices or a damp spring can erase already razor-thin profit margins. In such a challenging environment, making crop management decisions based on bad data risks an unprofitable harvest. 

 

To improve their farm’s profitability, corn farmers can use drone technology to bring precision agriculture to their cornfields:

  • Emergence, inventory, and yield forecasting. Instead of sampling the number of corn plants in 1/1000th of an acre, use drones and artificial intelligence to count plants in an entire field. Evaluate replanting opportunities as early as the emergence stage (VE), using quantitative data.
  • Comprehensive corn crop monitoring. Rather than taking random soil samples and scouting for rolling, browning, and yellowing, apply a vegetative index to immediately surface indicators of stress.
  • Precise input management. Better than spraying or watering broad swaths of corn crops, precisely apply inputs using prescription maps and zonal strategies.

 

By monitoring crops and minimizing inputs, corn farmers are reducing costs and improving yields.

 

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How to Manage Corn Crops Using Drones and Artificial Intelligence

 

 

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Collect
Fly a range of ready-to-fly drone and sensor hardware, field-tested for corn crops, to gather high-quality cornfield data
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Process & Analyze
Use vegetative indices to surface trends in corn plant health, quantify greensnap and lodging damage, automate plant counting, and compare field zones
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Report
Generate prescription maps, exportable to farm management systems, and customized PDF reports

Collect Data with Drones

Access a range of purpose-built flight and sensor hardware configurations, suitable for corn crop management, including:

  • DJI Phantom 4 or DJI Mavic drones outfitted with RGB sensors for corn crop scouting and analysis
  • The DJI M200 drone equipped with a MicaSense RedEdge or MicaSense Altum sensors for more precise corn leaf vigor analysis
  • BirdsEyeView FireFLYPro 6, which can fly hundreds of acres of cornfields in a single flight thanks to its vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) fixed-wing form factor
 
 
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When and How to Fly Corn Crops with Drones

In North America, corn farmers can fly drones throughout the corn growing cycle, which lasts from roughly April to August. Early growth stages, from emergence (VE) through four-leaf growth stages (~V5), are a particularly valuable time for growers to collect corn aerial imagery. During this time, farmers can use drone imagery and PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture to conduct emergence and stand evaluations. This will highlight areas where the planter might have failed. It can also indicate where conditions, such as dampness, might be preventing seeds from germinating.
 
Throughout the growing season, farmers can collect corn crop imagery to evaluate plant vigor. Or after a weather event, they can fly drones to assess storm damage. 
 
No matter the time or application, our industry-leading agricultural and drone experts can help you develop a customized technology plan that meets your needs. 
 

Talk to our team about your goals to learn if drone-based aerial intelligence is right for your farming operation.

 

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Process & Analyze with PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture

 

In PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture, corn farmers can monitor crop health and yields, verify stand establishment, and run a myriad of other analytic reports. Within minutes, they can see issues such as over-fertilization, flooding, or disease.
 
By catching signs of stress earlier, farmers can better manage inputs such as irrigation, fertilizers or herbicides. They can also decide whether to replant their corn before it’s too late in the season.
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Plant Count and Elevation

PrecisionAnalytic’s plant count tools enable corn farmers to get instant, accurate counts on the number of plants in a given zone or field. Plant count tools enable corn growers to: 


  • Define an area--such as single row of corn, a plot, or an entire cornfield--and quantify the number of plants in it.
  • Quantify acres of damage to corn stalks, such as lodging and greesnap damage, and file a crop insurance claim. 
  • Get a precise corn plants that have emerged (stand count) and those that have not, to drive replanting decisions.
  • View full-resolution imagery and zoom in on issues such as damp or sparse areas.
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Vegetation Indices

Traditionally, when inspecting for signs of disease, pests and other plant stressors, farmers would walk parts of the field looking for issues such as rolling, browning, and yellowing. But if those issues are visibly present on the plant, it’s likely already too late to adjust inputs or replant. 

Now, using PrecisionAnalytics’ vegetative indices, farmers can use NDVI, GLI, and VARI, to identify early indicators of and trends in crop stress, which might indicate:

  • Disease--blight, rust, leaf spot, eyespot, canker, wilt, and corn grey leaf spot
  • Weeds--ragweed, nut grass, amaranth, yellow nutsedge, common wild oat, scutch grass, field velvetleaf, pigweed, and others 
  • Nutrient deficiency or toxicity--over- and under-application of nitrogen, phosphate, or potash
  • Drought or drowning

In the field, farmers can geolocate themselves on their mobile device to quickly identify where an area of concern is relative to their position.

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Precision Application of Inputs

Apply the right inputs, from pre-planting spread to post-planting side dressing. Those farmers owning precision applicators can use PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture to translate vegetative indices into prescription maps for their cornfields. The system automatically breaks up vegetation indices into tiles as small as 3-square feet. This enables the user to dictate a pound-per-acre (lb/acre) application of nitrogen, phosphate, and/or potash. Then, the user can export a prescription file directly into a farm management system for fertilizer application.

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Improving Corn Variety Research with PrecisionAnalytics

Want to analyze how a corn plant develops and survives under different environmental conditions?

With PrecisionAnalytics, researchers can: 

  • Get a precise stand count, in early vegetative stages 
  • Use custom plot statistics to define plots and compare counts from plot-to-plot
  • Capture bare-earth data for benchmarking
  • Use vegetative indices to quantify the impact of treatment differences (such as varieties of corn, nutritional inputs, and chemistries) across plots 
  • Use comparison view to toggle between datasets and analyze year-over-year trends in crop growth

Results

Accelerating agriculture research

An agribusiness research company tested drones on the crops it grew at its research stations. Instead of surveying plots manually it deployed drones. The results:

2.5X more efficient than sampling
25% more accurate than hand counts
Surveyed full plots instead of sampling 10% to 40% of the field

Read the case study →

BASF quantified turf improvements

By quantifiably measuring sprig growth and green quality, BASF Turf and Landscape proved a 24 percent increase in Green Level Index for sprigs treated with Lexicon®. Now, according to Gary Myers, CGCS, BASF Pinehurst Project Lead, BASF is able to “use the data as the foundation of [their] presentations to prospective customers and golf course superintendents.” 

Read the case study →

Why PrecisionHawk?

We’ve built our offerings to scale. From investing in geospatial science expertise to understanding the regulatory environment, we’re able to support a one-time flight or a fully integrated enterprise aerial intelligence program.

 

Precise Stand Count

Honed by years of agriculture experience and millions of acres of corn crop data, our artificial intelligence has enabled our stand count tool to be one of the best in the industry.

 

Ag tech by ag pros

Our industry-leading team of Ph.D. and remote sensing-accredited geospatial analysts ensure our ag tech follows leading agronomic science principles.

 

More than just imagery

Partnering with leading manufacturers MicaSense, Headwall, and DJI, our system processes data from a range of visual, thermal, multispectral, and hyperspectral sensors--purpose-built for vegetative analysis.

 

Trusted by leading agrochemical and seed companies

Our tools are used by some of world’s leading agronomic enterprises, honed for scientific precision.

 

Partners to agriculture research institutions

We work with the USDA, North Carolina State University, and many other organizations that are advancing the science of agronomy.

 

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Redefine the limits of yield intensification, using drone-based data collection and analytics.

 
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