Jason Webster is excited. He's been able to help farmers in his area in central Illinois find various kinds of problems, and help them figure out the possible and likely causes, before harvest season arrives. Some of the problems found early enough could be addressed yet this year. Others are being diagnosed with the hope of making sure corrections can be made before next year.
No, it's not a mistake- Jason is from Illinois. But he's making news here because he appeared at Beck's Hybrids annual field day at Atlanta, Ind., recently promoting a service the company offers, aerial imagery scouting. But it was more of an education talk on scouting than a sales pitch. And Jason was the one giving the talk because he manages the Beck's Practical Farm Research Center near Bloomington, Ill., and works with farmers in the area. His talk was so popular on field day that he often had to take two wagonloads of folks, about 70 in all, along on each hour-long tour just toget everybody through his tour that wanted to hear it.
Why did people flock to his tour? Probably because farmers go on those tours to find practical information, and that's what he was demonstrating. He showed images of fields with distinct differences, and then explained what had happened to produce the difference. Sometimes it was a change in hybrids. Other times it as an area where the chemical applicator ran out. When they ground-truthed the area of a bright green strip, they found weeds ere taking over, making the green image, not corn.
Ground truthing is the key to making those program pay, he notes. The aerial flight, either in color photography or infra-red, simply let you look over the op of your fields, and pick out areas where there is more vegetative cover than others. You're not sure what the vegetation is, or why it's different, until you go look.With modern technology, finding the exact spot in the field that appeared on the image is not difficult. You can also use soils maps and yield maps to look back for clues as to why that area might be different. Plugged nozzles on nitrogen applicators also show up distinctly in these types of crop scouting photos, he notes.