Flying the Fields with Joe Roberts
By Joe Roberts, Latham Hi-Tech Seeds Sales Intern
My dad decided to buy a drone because he believed it would help making better, more informed decisions on our farm.
A drone can lead to better management practices in so many ways. When we have wet years and get in a hurry, sometimes we plant in conditions that aren’t ideal. Throughout the growing season, we can then fly the drone over those fields and see the impact of planting in wet conditions.
This summer, while I was flying drones as part of my internship with Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, I could see compaction problems throughout the fields. You can identify problems like drown-out areas or high weed pressure areas. The same year you can go out and implement applications to correct that before the next growing season.
I believe seeing those areas through the lens of a drone during the growing season and then seeing yield differences on the monitor this fall will cause us to make changes next spring.
Flying a drone all summer long gave us the ability to “see the big picture” of an entire field. Sometimes problems occur in areas that aren’t visible from the ground or in places that aren’t easy to reach by walking a field. We were able to fly some fields that had to be assessed quickly for replant. In a few minutes, we were able to analyze every section of the field.
One of the coolest things I saw through the drone camera this summer was the progression of the stress wheel. Flying the drone over the crops as they developed held significance since I was able to help during planting. Flying over the Latham Seeds’ test plots and SuperStrips throughout the marketing area gave both farmers and myself an arial view of the differences in hybrids along with the progression of each one. Once you see some of the amazing pictures that a drone take, I don’t think you’ll ever look at your fields the same way!
Drones can be used at all points throughout the growing season, which really creates a good return on your investment. Early in the season, you can make notes about emergence or compaction issues. When the crops emerge, you can fly fields to identify problems with fertilizer application and weed control. There’s always a use for a drone after a storm, whether you want to look for drowned-out spots or wind damage. Flying the drone makes quick work of all of these tasks, plus it’s a lot more fun! I’m looking forward to taking cool videos from planting to harvest, and then showing the photos to friends and family.
My advice to farmers is don’t let the fear of flying prevent you from getting a drone. The process to learn how to fly the drone can be accomplished in less than a day. It just takes some practice. There are even drones available with obstacle collision, so you don’t have to worry about crashing it anymore. Additional programs may be purchased to enhance the value of your drone. At the Farm Progress Show, I talked with a company representative that had mapping software for the drones, as well as the ability to spray fungicide over portions of your field.
As drones keep advancing, the sky’s the limit for the potential uses of your very own drone! Buying something that can have a practical use on the farm for more than one season looked to be a good investment, too.