Drones are an instrumental tool for assisting farmers in making important financial decisions regarding winter wheat. Seeing as this particular crop is highly susceptible to winter kill, Deveron UAS has completed a study focused on determining the economic impact of winter kill by using unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology and economic calculations.
Our goal is to allow growers to objectively make the right decisions on whether to keep all or part of a given field or to replant completely.
Using drones, we tracked a winter wheat field from planting in the fall to emergence the following spring.
The drones provided normalized difference vegetation index (NVDI) image and zone maps to determine areas of poor, moderate and excellent survivability. Based on individual costs of production, this data can help growers more accurately determine the most economically viable course of action.
Here’s a glance a the wheat market:
- There are over 50 million hectares of agricultural land classified as suitable for long-term cultivation in Canada.
- Wheat is the most cultivated crop in Canada; it is grown on an average of 10 million hectares.
- Half of all Canadian wheat is grown in Saskatchewan, followed by Alberta and Manitoba.
Using the drone data collected in the fall and spring, we were able to create an image using NDVI values to illustrate areas of poor, moderate and excellent survivability among the crop.
Based on the percentage of the field affected by winter kill, the grower can make an objective decision as to whether or not to abandon the crop or replant a portion of the field in question.
Using NDVI imagery, zone maps and the above variables, the grower can objectively devise the most economical course of action based on break-even points.
Because every grower’s break-even point is different, Deveron UAS has developed a “Winter Wheat Break Even Calculator” to assist growers in the decision-making process based solely on economic factors.
In some cases, a grower may maximize revenues and loss minimization by choosing to replant only a portion of the field.
In one example, the grower has a break-even threshold of 70% – meaning that if winter kill exceeded 30% of the field, the financial loss to the grower would be minimized by replanting the entire field.
Beyond this threshold, the input costs exceed the available outcomes remaining.Conclusion
- UAVs are a powerful tool for reducing/eliminating human error in the decision-making process of winter wheat farming.
- Growers are able to avoid obtaining erroneous results and overestimating the amount of winter kill on a given lot.
- Using NVDI data in conjunction with relevant economic factors, growers can make accurate management decisions on the viability of winter wheat crop.
This case study was reposted with permission from Toronto, Ontario-based Deveron UAS.