Use In-Season Satellite Imagery to Fine-Tune Your Wheat Inputs

Use In-Season Satellite Imagery to Fine-Tune Your Wheat Inputs
Chris Heidrich
District Sales Manager
Bismarck, ND
After you’ve separated your fields into management zones and started to harness the power of the R7® Tool during planning, you have the ability to utilize real-time satellite imagery to help guide your in-season crop management decisions.
Scouting your fields by truck or on foot provides only a partial glimpse of what’s happening during the course of the growing season. But viewing in-season satellite imagery at regular intervals enables you to monitor the progress of your crop from a different perspective and identify the trouble areas that you can’t see through traditional field-level scouting.
While you still need boots on the ground to assess the crop in-person, the imagery saves time and improves accuracy by pinpointing where farmers and local agronomists should focus their scouting efforts. Nutrient deficiencies, disease pressure and damage caused by insects or hail all look similar in photos taken 400 miles above the Earth. But with GIS mapping, the R7 Tool and the R7 Field Monitoring Tool are valuable instruments. They categorize crop health by color-coding areas with the lowest biomass (red), lower than average biomass (yellow) and highest biomass (green). These maps can be exported into Google Earth for field scouting purposes.
If you identify nutrient deficiencies or disease pressure after walking your fields, you can address those issues by comparing the imagery with field map layers from the R7 Tool to prescribe variable rate treatments. Here’s a closer look at each of those areas.
Variable Rate Fertility
One way the R7 Tool and R7 Field Monitoring Tool provides unique value to farmers is through greater interaction with NutriSolutions® tissue analysis. By using in-season satellite imagery of biomass and field GPS mapping to identify areas of a field that are under stress, you can perform more targeted NutriSolutions tissue testing and plant analysis. Analyzing different nutrient levels can help determine the cause of biomass variances, which is directly related to yield potential at the end of the season. The best time to submit wheat tissue samples is once at tillering and once just before flag leaf emergence.
If nutrient deficiencies are to blame for poor plant health, layering in-season imagery with the Field Response and Profitability maps in the R7 Tool can help you can make the most efficient use of your crop inputs. For example, rather than making a blanket nitrogen (N) application across your entire field, you can instead give the best-producing areas exactly what they need and refrain from applying extra N in areas that will have little to no response. This applies whether you’re top dressing N early in the growing season to drive yield potential, or planning a late-season N application geared towards increasing wheat protein levels.
While satellite imagery identifies which areas of a field to scout, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t always tell the entire story when it comes to crop fertility. When the most productive areas of a field appear healthy in satellite imagery, some farmers choose to bypass them when taking tissue samples because they assume fertility levels are adequate. But since nutrient deficiencies start impacting plants before visual symptoms appear, I always recommend including the most productive areas of your fields when submitting tissue samples for NutriSolutions analysis.
Variable Fungicide Treatments
When wheat prices are down, it may be difficult to justify applying a fungicide to all of your acres. In-season satellite imagery identifies the most productive parts of your field by showing where the most plant matter is. These areas can be more vulnerable to disease development since they retain more moisture, which means there’s a greater threat for yield loss.
Whether you’re considering making a preventative treatment or you find disease is already causing crop damage in a particular area of a field, layering satellite imagery with the Field Response map in the R7 Tool compares where the need is the greatest against where past fungicide applications were the most effective. This additional insight is invaluable, because it allows you to program the sprayer to turn on where fungicides have the biggest payoff potential and turn off or decrease the application rate where extra protection isn’t warranted.
To sum it all up, in-season satellite imagery can help guide your crop management practices and maximize your investment in crop inputs. This is important in any given year, but even more so when commodity prices are down and profit margins are tight. If you’re ready to start using the R7 Tool and satellite imagery during the growing season, call your locally owned and operated WinField® United retailer to get the ball rolling.
© 2020 WinField United. Important: Before use always read and follow label instructions. Crop performance is dependent on several factors many of which are beyond the control of WinField United, including without limitation, soil type, pest pressures, agronomic practices, and weather conditions. Growers are encouraged to consider data from multiple locations, over multiple years, and be mindful of how such agronomic conditions could impact results. CROPLAN®, NutriSolutions®, R7® and WinField® are registered trademarks of WinField United.

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