Kieran Walsh is a Regional Agronomist at Velcourt & Agronomist for Hands Free Hectare, in the UK. He keeps an open mind to all sources of new technologies that can help growers and agronomists explore and maximise efficient ways of crop production, one of those platforms is fieldmargin. Kieran uses satellite imagery from fieldmargin’s Field Health with his clients to spot problem areas and assess if improvements or applications to crops are working.
“The design of fieldmargin and Field Health is very user friendly, for example being able to see two maps on the same screen is very useful as it means I can assess growth over time with my clients.”
Kieran uses fieldmargin to make notes of issues that he sees in the field with their location and photos. This makes communication with clients quicker and easier. Rather than having to spend time calling farmers to explain where problems are or writing up reports of his farm visits he can just ask them to look at what he has noted on fieldmargin. Farmers are immediately aware of jobs that need to be done and can mark when they’re completed. This also quickly builds up a log of work and observations that have been made which can be referred to later on.
Using the Field Health maps allows Kieran to be more efficient with the time he spends on farm. He checks the images the night before he visits a farm, this means that when he is on site he can focus his time on the areas he has identified as needing his attention and maximising the area that he can survey. “I use the Field Health imagery in practical ways, as measuring plant health is just one piece of the puzzle. It doesn’t mean you don’t need to ground truth fields, but it acts as a good management tool.”
Having access to three years of imagery means that Kieran can assess what happened in his fields over the last year or so. He has identified the dates when weeds start to germinate, including blackgrass. “Blackgrass is an area of interest to me. Like many farmers I have been working hard to stamp out this notoriously troublesome weed with a zero tolerance approach.” Using the imagery Kieran can track the movement of blackgrass and other problem grass weeds, which can be spread by combines and balers.
One big factor last season was crop stress from drought. “When checking farms last year I could see when crops started to feel any drought stress. You tend to know which fields will suffer from drought first, but you can’t be in every field every day. The imagery gave me a heads up of the stress on all the farms I work on, you can then decide alongside the customer if you need to cut back on inputs such as Nitrogen. It helps that when you are looking at the maps, the customer can view the same image at the same time, without anyone logging off the system. This makes it such a useful tool when decisions need to be made.”
He has also used the Field Health imagery to track the spread of pests. For example the damage cabbage stem flea beetle has done to oilseed rape crops. This image shows the areas of damage caused by cabbage stem flea beetle larvae on the left hand side of the field, which in January is quite green but in matters of weeks its turned into a large areas of orange and yellow where the plants have died off. “It doesn’t stop the flea beetle issue, but it does show the impact of the problem and help map out and measure the areas that you may re-drill with a different crop. Ground truthing areas of what I have mapped out to carry on with, it is very accurate.”
Field Health is available as part of fieldmargin Pro. See how it could help on your farm with a free 14-day trial of Pro. No credit card required.