Crop Growth Stages
In traditional crop scouting, you are looking at individual plants, their leaves, fruit, and any diseases or pests that are evident on a plant. With this method of scouting, you only see about 5% of the entire field. The issue is throughout the field you will have varying soil types that result in different moisture contents, nutrient levels, and soil textures. These soil traits and other field factors result in areas of good yields and poor yields across the field. Walking through the crop it can be difficult to assess these sorts of spatial impacts.
With the advances in drone technology, there is a new method of scouting I term, Field Scale Crop Assessment. Drones now allow you to conveniently get your boots off the ground and assess the crop canopy across an entire field while looking for patterns such as defoliation, small canopies, and color changes in the crop. This is a huge difference from traditional scouting and can be a game-changer in time management and the location of problems throughout the growing season.
As we go through this part of the growing season, you can fly the drone once or twice a month to get a good field perspective on how the crop is progressing. As mentioned earlier, parts of the field allow the crop to grow faster, and in some cases a little too fast. You can see these areas from the air and decide on growth regulator application.
Other major issues to look for are damage originating from local wildlife such as wild hogs and deer. As you know, you can’t see two feet into a cornfield. Hogs make their deans in the corn where you can’t see them and only by stumbling into it will you find it. When flying over the corn with a drone, the hog deans are much easier to spot.
The greatest asset from the drone’s live feed is locating green snap damage in the middle of the cornfield from strong thunderstorm winds. Now you see exactly where the green snap is located and how much acreage is blown over. Now you can make management decisions on how to pick the corn up during harvest.
Deer can have an impact on soybean growth and cotton bolls. Deer love to eat the tender leaves from soybean and cotton stunting the plant’s growth. Besides eating the cotton plant's tender leaves, they enjoy nipping the cotton squares preventing the square's development to a boll.