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By Matt Grinolds

The same question comes up at every meeting I attend that involves UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or Drones): How is this toy going to make me money?

I think the first thing we have to do is step away from the notion that UAV’s are going to be some magic tool that will show us everything that’s going wrong with our crops and then tells us what we have to do fix it. That’s just not reality at this point. I think we have to focus on the fact that UAV’s and NDVI technology can be used as a tool to further enhance the efficiencies of the precision farming practices already in use on your farm I believe it becomes more of a feasible product.

Let’s take a look at how NDVI images captured from a drone are helping growers in south Georgia develop a more precise nematode control program. Cotton growers here in south Georgia have battled nematode issues with soil fumigants. The application of this fumigant was applied as a blanket application in the beginning but as technology made it’s way onto the farm growers were able to focus the application in soil types that were more favorable for nematode growth, sandy soils. These soil types were determined by grid soil sampling and while very effective, this still left some room for improvement. This is one area of the farm where precision practices can be improved upon by the use of uav.


Let’s take this one south Georgia field for example, in the aerial photograph you will notice some sandy spots in the field. The grid samples produced an application map that targeted only the sandiest areas for fumigant application.

But fortunately the grower had flown a uav over the cotton crop in the later part of the season the year before. This was done in an effort to determine where the crop was most affected by possible nematode damage.


The image to the left is the resulting NDVI map that clearly shows where the cotton crop is stressed. The grower was able to take this map along with the soil samples and create a highly precise application map for the fumigant. The customer was able to go from targeting nematodes on a 2.5 acre grid basis down to targeting them on a pass by pass basis. Now that’s precision!