Monitoring crop emergence during COVID-19 pandemic

What does the COVID-19 pandemic mean for farming? No pressure, but it means that this year’s crop is more critical than ever. There is already mounting concern about what the crisis will mean for the food supply chain and farm labour.

Lucky for us, the American grower is accustomed to adversity and has consistently demonstrated the ability to adapt accordingly and overcome it. US growers are so resilient because they know the importance of a good strategy and a strong start to the season. So as growers plan for a period of uncertainty and turbulence, let us look at the role of emergence and how to make the best use of technology to ensure a solid season.

The importance of starting strong

The entire genetic potential of a crop exists within a tiny seed. From the moment of planting, that seed faces environmental challenges as it develops and grows. It is literally under attack from the moment it is planted in the earth.

Fortunately, we have access to great technologies that increase the odds of the seed developing into a healthy and robust plant. Well maintained and calibrated planters can help ensure the seed is planted at the proper depth and population. Seed treatments help protect and nourish the young plant from the earliest stages and automated irrigation systems ensure that the seed is cultivated as needed.

Challenges and setbacks

Even still, growers will experience challenges and setbacks during the critical emergence period. Once planting has begun, the clock begins to tick, and growers only have so much time to monitor for issues and take corrective action. Traditionally, it takes substantial manpower and time to accurately assess all the acreage for emergence issues.

This season, however, will be different. The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to have ripple effects throughout the country. While many aspects of agriculture may be somewhat shielded from the impact, the reality is that restrictions and social distancing have reduced the availability and consistency of labor. So how do we overcome and adapt to this new environment?

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One of the best ways to monitor crops is with AI-powered drone scouting; from these lofty heights, growers can get a bird’s eye view of their fields. - Photo: Bert Jansen
One of the best ways to monitor crops is with AI-powered drone scouting; from these lofty heights, growers can get a bird’s eye view of their fields. - Photo: Bert Jansen

Achieving optimal emergence

History is a good indicator of future performance, and the American grower has been known to successfully overcome threats and to leverage technology in doing so. There is a wide range of technologies available to help growers meet this challenge and reduce risk.

Seed selection, placement, and planting technologies have evolved to a very sophisticated level. The technologies available today help growers select the proper genetics based on local, regional, and national data and then match them to their fields at the right populations. Then growers can take that plan and mechanically execute it via precision planting software and equipment.

Now is the time for growers to also adopt the next stage of crop monitoring and scouting solutions to ensure follow-through and proper execution

Now is the time for growers to also adopt the next stage of crop monitoring and scouting solutions to ensure follow-through and proper execution. One of the best ways to accomplish this is with AI-powered drone scouting; from these lofty heights, growers can get a bird’s eye view of their fields. Coupled with powerful artificial intelligence, the imagery allows them to see exactly where they have emergence challenges, reporting accurate numbers and enabling them to take clear and immediate action, acre by acre.

Monitor 7,000 acres per day

Taranis, for example, offers the AI2 SmartScout solution, which can monitor 7,000 acres per day at an incredible 0.3mm / pixel resolution, and then deliver highly accurate and actionable insights about crop status. This can be much more efficient and effective than relying on human scouting alone. In fact, this focuses human resources on attacking the problems vs. collecting data.

Embracing the available tech

The agriculture industry is already adopting digital solutions at a faster pace than ever before. However, with the new and extreme conditions presented by the COVID-19 crisis, companies across all industries are compelled to accelerate their adoption rates. Farming is no exception. The more supportive information growers have at the critical decision-making crossroads throughout the season, the better equipped they will be to minimise risk.

Today we can say with certainty that growers who embrace and leverage technology will outperform those who do not. Accuracy and efficiency solutions at scale will drive the farming industry for many seasons to come.

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