Sensor research helps show crop damage, predict yields

Drones and sensor technology might soon help farmers predict alfalfa damage and yields.

Brian Luck is the Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in precision ag and machinery systems at the University of Wisconsin.  He says his team has spent time researching remote sensing in corn, soybeans, and alfalfa using unmanned aerial vehicles. “There’s a few yield monitors on forage harvesters as well that are feed roll displacement, and they work okay in alfalfa, but they work better in corn silage, so in alfalfa sometimes you get some interesting readings.”

He says supplementing the harvester’s yield monitors with remote sensing data should help farmers get a more accurate yield map.

Luck says they’re also using the sensors to evaluate alfalfa damaged by machinery traffic.  He tells Brownfield the later alfalfa is run over, the harder it is on the new shoots and stems, so reducing traffic and limiting traffic to as close to harvest as possible is important. “The second step is we’re looking to verify that controlled traffic might help, so only driving with transport trucks where the forage harvester went, so maintaining lanes within the field. You might damage that alfalfa a little more, but generally, the whole field won’t get run over.”

He says using GPS data, about 49% of every field gets a tire imprint at least once a season.

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