Crop scouting: aerial imagery
Aerial imagery is a crop scouting technique that helps farmers manage their fields and detect stress and disease in their crops. Here’s an overview of the three main types of aerial imagery used in agriculture.
1. Drones or unpiloted aerial vehicles (UAVs) deliver clear image resolution because they’re equipped with high-quality cameras that can fly at very low altitudes. For instance, drones can capture the fine details of individual rows and plants. Some drones provide a live video feed so you can immediately take corrective action if necessary. One of the most significant disadvantages of using a drone is its limited battery life, which can impact productivity.
2. Human-crewed aircraft provide high-quality aerial imagery without the time commitment or overhead costs of owning a drone. However, this method involves a lot of preparation, making it difficult to capture images in certain weather conditions or specific times of the day. It often takes a few days to receive the aerial photos, which could be detrimental to your crop if there’s a pressing need to be addressed.
3. Satellite imagery is the most affordable aerial imagery on the market and covers the most expansive field of view. However, it offers the lowest resolution. One of satellite imagery’s most significant drawbacks is that weather and cloud cover often hinder it. For example, suppose there are several overcast days in a row; you might miss a desirable image of your crop at a specific growth stage.
Be sure to consider your crop scouting needs and the type of information you want to gather before choosing an imagery source.
Farming the Future: Robert A. Clark’s innovative efforts earn him top honors
In a remarkable feat that resonates with his lifelong dedication and passion for his work, Robert A. Clark, a Senior Extension Agent with a focus on Agriculture and Natural Resources, has recently received the 2023 Alumni Award for Extension Excellence from the Virginia Tech Alumni Association.
Better known as Bobby, Clark expressed his delight and gratitude for this well-deserved recognition. “My desire to become an Extension agent started when I was in high school. My Extension career spans two states — North Carolina and Virginia — and 35 years,” he said, reflecting on his journey that has taken him through three and a half decades of service. He added, “Throughout my career, I have always enjoyed helping both individuals and communities succeed through the knowledge shared as an Extension agent.”
Clark’s contribution to the field extends to addressing an array of economic and environmental issues. His tireless work in the northern Shenandoah Valley and beyond has encompassed a series of initiatives like improving slug management in no-till corn and soybeans, helping farmers increase profitability while practicing better environmental stewardship, addressing large animal mortality disposal issues, and devising solutions to poultry litter management issues. The success and impact of these initiatives speak volumes about Clark’s commitment to his stakeholders and his community.
In her supportive remarks, Lori Miller, Senior Staff Officer and Environmental Engineer for USDA, lauded Clark’s unique approach and dedication, saying, “Bobby’s initiative and ability to think outside the box has greatly improved our nation’s ability to respond to animal health emergencies during our times of greatest need; his leadership, professionalism, and practicality have had a major impact on the protection of American agriculture.”
As one of the most respected figures in his field, Clark’s body of work has earned him several awards, including Program Excellence Awards at the district and state levels, the National Association of County Agricultural Agents Distinguished Service Award, and the Virginia Association of Agricultural Extension Agents Distinguished Service Award. This most recent accolade from Virginia Tech further underscores his immense value to his field and his profound influence on American agriculture.
Why small farms make a big difference
Despite the continuing shift in production to larger farms in the United States, the contribution of small family farms is still considerable. According to the USDA, small farms and ranches number nearly two million and generate 15 percent of production. Here’s why small farms can make a big difference.
1. They’re more productive. Smaller farms are more productive per hectare than significantly larger farms. They also tend to have more dependable yields. This is in part because they employ diversified farming systems.
2. They increase diversity. Large farms tend to plant monocultures because heavy machinery makes them easy to manage. By contrast, small farms typically grow wider varieties of crops, contributing to agrobiodiversity, which is essential to sustainable food systems.
3. They safeguard the environment. Small farms have a vested interest in protecting their soil’s fertility and their land’s long-term productivity. Consequently, they act as land stewards for future generations and employ more sustainable farming practices than large, conventional farms.
It’s important to support small family farms whenever possible to ensure they continue to grow and thrive. You can help by shopping at your neighborhood farmer’s market, spreading the word about locally grown products, and requesting your corner store sell more goods from nearby growers.
4 benefits of supporting local farmers
This year, National Ag Day is celebrated on March 21. The theme is Agriculture: Growing a Climate for Tomorrow. This campaign encourages Americans to recognize and celebrate the farmers, ranchers, foresters, farmworkers, and other agricultural stewards across the United States. In honor of this event, here are four benefits of supporting local farmers.
1. Protect the environment. Most small, local farmers employ sustainable growing practices to minimize their environmental impact. Moreover, when food products don’t have to be shipped across the country, it reduces air pollution and minimizes the amount of packaging that ends up in landfills.
2. Eat healthier. The less distance your food travels, the less chance for contamination, expiration, and other issues. Besides, seasonal fruits and vegetables taste better and have a higher nutrition content.
3. Bolster the community. Supporting local farmers means supporting the local economy. When you buy from a local farmer, that money is reinvested into other businesses and services that help improve community life for everyone.
4. Support animal welfare. Local meats, cheeses, and eggs often come from family farms where the animals have been raised in favorable living conditions without hormones or antibiotics. You can feel good about what you’re eating.
Each farmer in the United States feeds 144 people, much more than ever. This National Ag Day, thank a farmer for all they do.
Agricultural giant John Deere heads into space
Close your eyes for a moment and think, “John Deere.” The odds are that the first things to come to mind are green tractors and rolling farmlands. Yet now, John Deere has its eyes set on a (literally) sky-high ambition: using satellites to revolutionize agriculture.
If the renowned farm equipment company has its way, farmers will soon use satellites to generate geospatial maps that allow them to monitor productivity and crop performance.
With this data in hand, farmers can put together appropriate and nuanced responses. For example, if one part of the field is underperforming, farmers can investigate and then react, perhaps increasing fertilizers to one area or deploying pesticides.
Farmers may not be limited to data from their fields or nearby fields. John Deere is working to increase connectivity worldwide. This way, farmers can monitor major events and trends from afar, which could help them organize a more effective response to changing environmental and operating conditions.
John Deere has been gathering data for some time. However, most current data collection relies on farmers using individual See & Spray devices. These devices can alert farmers to problems, such as growing weeds. Now, the company wants to up the ante by looping in low-earth satellites.
In recent months, John Deere has been in discussions with various satellite companies, looking for the perfect partner that will enable farmers to reap the full benefits of data. In the long run, farmers may enjoy greater yields and, thus, more substantial profits.
How to increase monarch butterfly populations on farms
For the past decade, environmental experts have touted the importance of safeguarding beneficial insects like honeybees. However, did you know that protecting monarch butterflies is equally important? Monarch migration across North America is essential to many ecosystems worldwide.
Farmers play a key role in growing monarch populations by protecting, restoring, and establishing native milkweed — wildflowers that monarch butterflies can’t live without — and other nectar plants. Here are a few ways farmers help bolster monarch populations:
• Refrain from spraying monarch habitats with herbicides and insecticides
• Manage ditches along fields to promote monarch habitats
• Leave grass uncut during periods when monarch eggs and caterpillars are present
• Implement grazing and burning practices that promote beneficial plants
If conservation experts and farmers continue to work together, they can create a more successful habitat for monarchs while minimizing the impact on crops and livestock production. Contact your local conservation authority to find out how you can help.
Understanding crop rotation
Crop rotation is the practice of planting different crops sequentially on the same plot of land from one year to the next. Though it requires careful planning, crop rotation is adaptable and can be modified according to the environment and other factors.
What are the benefits?
Crop rotation is a sustainable management practice that can increase biodiversity and improve crop performance. For example, it helps with weed control by preventing undesirable plants from adapting to the space and becoming a problem.
In addition, this practice can li¬mit heavy fertilizer and herbicide use. It also makes it possible to grow crops without the use of pesticides. Crop rotation improves soil structure, boosts soil fertility, prevents erosion, and increases harvest yields.
What types are there?
Farmers can execute many types of crop rotation, including simple, complex, and perennial variations. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Farmers can choose the method that best suits their operation by considering seeding time, crop competition, and fertilization needs.
Crop rotation makes sense for both farmers and the environment. Encourage the farms that use this method by opting for their products at farmers markets and grocery stores.
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