How to improve farm productivity with satellite technology in 2020

Effective decision-making requires lots of intellectual resources. Not long ago, the only room for improvement in agriculture was enhancing farming machinery technology and chemical supplement formulas. Now it’s been expanded to the digital field.

What can farmers do to improve their land-use efficiency? 
The modern approach suggests using accurate material distribution such as variable rate application techniques, precise weather prediction, and remote sensing for advanced problem-spotting. Satellite monitoring technologies (and crop analysis platforms in particular) are a simple yet cost-efficient entry ticket to the future of farming. Digital tools along with satellite analytics prove especially efficient for big farmers due to good benefit-cost ratio and opportunity to save on scouting. However, it also suits small growers, providing them with a relatively cheap entry to the enterprise-level tech.

Increase profits from your field with crop monitoring platforms.
How satellite imagery and analytics help precision farming transformation?

The most obvious benefit remote sensing and monitoring platforms in particular provide is the comprehensive information that drives field management decision-making. Constantly updated data regarding vegetation health and moisture levels, for example, can point out to spots that need extra watering or fertilization (or have too much of those).

Satellite imagery is also irreplaceable in advanced farming machinery for guidance and variable rate application. For instance, the EOS Crop Monitoring platform features machine learning algorithms that automatically detect and divide fields into crop type category (currently available for Eastern Europe only), calculate field area, and display all the recorded satellite data regarding the field performance and local climate over the past few years upon request. Moreover, it enables to make crop production predictions so that one can make better management decisions.

Machine learning algorithms? What do they have to do with farming?
Satellite imagery takes lots of time to analyze manually, which is why developers train neural networks to automatically recognize the objects’ properties like crop type, field boundaries, and more. The EOS company has proved the data reliability with their comprehensive research and neural network training during the development of the Crop Map project. Crop Map was intended as a part of the World Bank and European Union cooperation with the government of Ukraine to support the agricultural sector transparency in the country. These algorithms helped revealing over 10 million acres of unauthorized land usage area.

  • What can EOS Crop Monitoring tell about your field?
  • With this platform, you can at least facilitate the following:
  • being up-to-date with the state of your crops remotely;
  • being aware in advance about weather changes and risks such as cold or heat stress;
  • optimizing fertilizer application rates;
  • field scouting;
  • measuring precise field area;
  • forecasting yields.
  • How is that possible?

The application allows choosing specific fields to analyze. Then, all the relevant data will be automatically gathered and displayed. Field health information is being monitored through spectral analysis via NDVI, NDSI, and other indices. Precipitation measurements help to assess the soil moisture level while weather indicators (such as wind speed, cloud cover, temperature, and air humidity) will define if that field requires extra care. It can also point out the dependence of culture development on precipitation and temperatures. Interactive graphs with historical weather changes info as well as the forecast for the following days will contribute to field works planning and scheduling. Also, reviewing culture growth historical data allows comparing the regional metrics for yield performance from other fields and forecasting total production volume.

Are there any real cases of using this technology?
EOS Crop Monitoring was the product of choice for Agroprosperis Group (controlled by the American NCH Capital), the largest producer and exporter of wheat, soya, corn and other cultures in the Black Sea region. The company offers financial, growing, storing and exporting services for farmers.

Over the past year, the company has been looking to put Variable Rate Application into practice. By using the satellite imagery they have determined the most productive fields. The decision was to increase the dosage of nitrogen fertilizer to maximize the potential of these fields.

The old strategy implied putting fertilizers evenly distributed among all fields instead of multiplying the output from the best fields and spending fewer resources overall. Plus, 5000-7500 acres of croplands is a huge territory to look after manually. This is why using satellite imagery and crop monitoring was a commercially right decision for the company, as its top-management stated.

How to calculate potential profit from using satellite monitoring?
We know that the average yield in the US from one acre of wheat is around 48 bushels (1306 kg). Let’s review a hypothetical situation. If a 500-acre farm produces 340 tons of crop and the price will average $190 per ton, this field’s owner can lose over $6 000 of income if just 5% of that field fails.

To sum up, satellite analytics and crop monitoring platforms provide an easy and cost-efficient entry into the smart farming trend. Not to mention the fact that they indeed make the life of a farmer easier. And a farm more profitable if the provided information is being used correctly!



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Tough Lessons From 2019 Farmers Can Use Now

While 2019 was a nightmare for many farmers, it provided valuable lessons that farmers can act upon this year.

The 2020 spring planting season is starting soggy, which is less than encouraging for farmers, but with 2019 close in the rear-view and means farmers know how to quickly adapt.

Despite recent rain, “right now, as of March, our stream flow is actually more like ‘normal’ compared to last year,” says Ken Ferrie, Farm Journal Field Agronomist to AgriTalk Host Chip Flory. “Which is a sign that if we can just get some weather to break it, we could actually be in a normal time frame right where we sit here from draining these fields out and get ready to go.

“I think we can take what we learned a year ago and apply it to this year,” he adds.

For one thing, Ferrie says farmers are in better shape in terms of field preparation than they were in the spring of 2019. More fall nitrogen was applied, and more tillage was completed, for example.

“From a weather sense, it hasn’t been as intense as it was in 2019,” says Michael Clark, BAM WX meteorologist. “The outlook going forward isn’t nearly as intense, either.”

Here is Clark’s weather breakdown by region for the upcoming week:

  • Parts of Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska: Current rainy weather pattern calms down as farmers get into April; good opportunity for more drying. Early April will open up chilly for the first six to 10 days but will eventually warm up.
  • North Dakota and South Dakota: Has been drier—just 15% to 20% of normal precipitation. The outlook for next few weeks is for dry conditions.
  • I-80 Corridor, from Omaha to Ohio: More rain over the next seven to 10 days. Some parts of southern Indiana and into Ohio are running 200% of the normal precipitation for March. The outlook for April is that the rain will stop and conditions will improve.

What if planting gets pushed back?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast suggests higher-than-normal precipitation through June. If this comes to fruition, already saturated fields could mean farmers again push planting into late May and June—possibly later, depending on local conditions.

But how late is too late to plant?

“We put this to the test last year of course,” Ferrie says. You have to consider a few factors when it comes to late planting: First, what is the crop maturity you’re planting; what growing degree units (GDUs) do you need to get the crop to maturity; do you have drying capacity if GDUs take longer to accumulate; what is the upcoming weather?

Take those factors into consideration before switching crop maturities, crop types or taking prevent plant.

Written by Sonja Begemann



Winter Wheat Stand Evaluation

Source: Laura Lindsey, OSU Extension

Between planting in the fall and Feekes 4 growth stage (beginning of erect growth) in the spring, winter wheat is vulnerable to environmental stress such as saturated soils and freeze-thaw cycles that cause soil heaving. All of which may lead to substantial stand reduction, and consequently, low grain yield. However, a stand that looks thin in the spring does not always correspond to lower grain yield. Rather than relying on a visual assessment, we suggest counting the number of wheat stems or using the mobile phone app (Canopeo) to estimate wheat grain yield.

Wheat stem count method. Wheat stems (main stem plus tillers) should be counted at Feekes 5 growth stage (leaf sheaths strongly erect) from one linear foot of row from several areas within a field.




Canopeo mobile phone app method. Canopy cover should be measured at Feekes 5 growth stage using the mobile phone application, Canopeo ( After accessing the app, hold your cell phone parallel to the ground to capture three rows of wheat in the image and take a picture. The app will convert the picture to black and white and quantify (as a percentage) the amount of green pixels in the image. For example, the screen shot here shows 44.86% canopy cover. (Keep in mind, this app will quantify anything green in the image. So, if you have a weedy field, the weeds will also be quantified in the canopy cover estimate.) Continue reading

Omitting residual herbicides in soybeans – really – we have to have this argument again?

Source: Dr Mark Loux, OSU Extension

According to our network of sources, the effectiveness of new soybean trait systems has some growers once again thinking about omitting preemergence residual herbicides from their weed management programs.  Some people apparently need to learn the same lessons over and over again.  Having gone through this once in the early 2000’s when Roundup Ready soybeans had taken over and we all sprayed only glyphosate all day every day, we think we’re pretty sure where it leads.  We’re sensitive to concerns about the cost of production, but the cost-benefit analysis for residual herbicides is way in the positive column.  We’re not the ones who ultimately have to convince growers to keep using residual herbicides, and we respect those of you who do have to fight this battle.  Back in the first round of this when we were advocating for use of residuals, while the developers of RR soybeans were undermining us and telling everyone that residuals would reduce yield etc, we used to have people tell us “My agronomist/salesman is recommending that I use residuals, but I think he/she is just trying to get more money out of me”.  Our response at that time of course was “no pretty sure he/she is just trying save your **** and make sure you control your weeds so that your whole farm isn’t one big infestation of glyphosate-resistant marestail.”  And that answer probably works today too – maybe substituting waterhemp for marestail.

We need to state here that a good number of growers kept residual herbicides in their programs through all of this, and we assume they aren’t tempted to omit them now either.  For everyone else – maybe interventions are called for.  Where the recalcitrant person is repeatedly thumped with a stick while being reminded of what happened last time, until they change their minds.

Weed scientist:  so you’re going to use residual herbicides right?

Soybean grower:  no


WS:  remember what happened last time – lambsquarters became a problem when every residual herbicide would have controlled it.  Change your mind yet?

SB:  no


WS:  remember when the weather didn’t cooperate and you ended up spraying 2 foot tall weeds because of no initial control?  Do you want this again?

SG:  no

WS:  so you’re going to use residuals?

SG:  not sure


WS:  and you expect your local dealer to clean up whatever mess occurs when you don’t use residuals?

SG: yes


WS:  remember when you burnt out the FirstRate on marestail and then the glyphosate wouldn’t work?  Do you want this to happen with dicamba, 2,4-D and glufosinate?”

SG:  no

WS:  well then

SG:  maybe

Gentler persuasive tap

WS:  You know how bad a weed waterhemp is right?

SG:  yes

WS:  what if residuals will help prevent waterhemp infestations

SG:  Ok then – yes

WS:  ok then

Note:  we considered a number of sound effects here – thump, zap, whack…. Thump won out for no particular reason.  We could not decide whether getting hit by a stick was more or less acceptable than getting shocked in this context.

The bottom line is that residual herbicides provide both short- and long-term risk management in weed management for a relatively low cost.  A non-inclusive list of these:

– reduces weed populations overall and slows weed growth, resulting in more flexibility in the POST application window.

– Reduced risk of yield loss if weather interferes with timely POST application.  In the absence of residual herbicides, soybean yield loss can occur when weeds reach a height of 6 inches.

– increases the number of different sites of action used within a season, slowing the rate of resistance development

– reduces the number of weeds that are treated by POST herbicides, which also slows the rate of herbicide resistance development

– residuals control lambsquarters which is not well-controlled by POST herbicides

– the most significant weed problems in Ohio soybean production – waterhemp, giant ragweed, and marestail – cannot be consistently controlled with POST herbicides alone.  They require a comprehensive herbicide program that includes residual and POST herbicides.  It may be possible to make a total POST system work some years or for a while, but in the end this approach will result in problems with control and speed up the development of resistance.

This whole subject of omitting residual herbicides makes us cranky because we don’t have to guess what will happen.  We’ve made our best case here.  It’s up to you of course, but we suggest that we not have to come back and have this discussion again.  Because next time we’re bringing a few friends, a bigger stick, and a gorilla.

Disclaimer:  Parts of this article are meant in pure jest.  We would certainly never advocate in earnest the use of physical harm or other methods of persuasion to change the behavior of herbicide users.  This goes against everything that the discipline of weed science stands for, and also OSU.  Plus – we don’t even know where to rent a gorilla.


Farm Bill Decision Deadline Fast Approaching

Enrollment in the 2018 Farm Bill programs (PLC, ARC-CO, and ARC-IC) ends on March 16th.  If you do not enroll by this date you will default to the election you made in the previous Farm Bill and receive NO PAYMENTS for the 2019 program year.  This same election holds true for 2020.

As a reminder, PLC is a price protection/income loss option that covers declines in crop prices and the ARC-CO program is an income support option based on county-level benchmark revenues and guarantees compared to actual revenues.  For those with prevent planted acres, the ARC-IC program may be worth consideration.  ARC-IC issues payments when individual crop revenue is less than the guarantee and uses individual yields, rather than the county yields.

Once an election is made, the choice carries through for 2019 and 2020.  Annual changes can be made in 2021, 2022, and 2023 program years.  If you have already made a program election and decide you want to make a change, you may do so until March 16th.

Information about the Farm Bill program options and the OSU Farm Bill Decision Tool are available at  You may also consult your local FSA office or OSU Extension Educator for answers to your specific questions.

The Secretary of Agriculture has said there will not be an extension to the enrollment deadline.  FSA offices are very busy processing enrollments and have a great deal of work to complete in less than one month.  If you have not met with your FSA office staff to enroll in the Farm Bill program, please do so ASAP.  Remember, the deadline is March 16th.

Overwintering of Pathogens and Insects – What do Winter Temperatures Tell Us About Next Season?

Source: Anne Dorrance, Kelley Tilmon, Andy Michel, OSU Extension

Over the years we have developed databases of winter temperatures followed by scouting to indicate starting pathogen populations for Ohio.

Frogeye leaf spot – We have documented early infections and overwintering ability of the fungus, Cercospora sojina, that causes frogeye leaf spot. It appears that when there are less than 10 days during the months of December, January and February of less than 17 F, we have had reports of outbreaks of frogeye leaf spot.  This occurred in fields where there was a high level of inoculum at the end of the season the same or similar moderately to highly susceptible cultivar was planted into the same field again which then initiated the epidemic that much sooner.  Losses of greater than 35% in yield or very early fungicide applications were necessary.

Expecting continued warmer winter temperatures, for fields with a history of frogeye leaf spot, and no-till production systems, the first thing for farmers is to do now to mitigate losses in 2020:

  1. Rotate fields with high levels of frogeye leaf spot into corn or another crop.
  2. If it is still targeted for soybean, look at their soybean varieties frogeye leaf spot resistance scores.  Your seed dealer will have more information.  Plan now for what fields they will go into.
  3. Scout the susceptible cultivars much earlier than what we have called for in the past and monitor levels.

Another pathogen that may be more prevalent after a warm winter is Stewart’s bacterial wilt.  This disease is transmitted to corn by corn flea beetle which survives in greater numbers in warm winters. This is a greater problem in popcorn and sweet corn as most field corn has high levels of resistance to the bacterium.

Most other field crop insect pests in Ohio are not highly influenced by winter conditions as they are well-adapted to withstand cold overwintering conditions.  Once exception is Mexican bean beetle, an occasional pest of soybean (especially in central Ohio).  Warm winter conditions may cause higher populations of this insect the following field season.