Monitoring pasture health using satellite imagery

Monitoring pasture health using satellite imagery

Measuring grass growth using satellite imagery provides a cost-effective method for improving grazing management. Sam Newington has been testing fieldmargin’s Field Health for monitoring pasture health at his organic beef farm in Sussex. He believes that using precision agriculture will improve the quality of his produce and the efficiency of his farm. He collects grass cover, soil temperature, rainfall, soil nutrients and organic matter of his pastures.

The first way that he plans to improve efficiency on his farm using satellite imagery is by reducing the amount of time he spends measuring the health of available grass for his cattle. This information is used to optimise the use of his fields but at the moment this is done by hand using a plate meter. He hopes that once he has calibrated his plate meter readings to the NDVI analysis he will not have to spend time taking readings in the field and instead can estimate available DM using the satellite imagery.

“Monitoring pasture health is a lot of work. Collecting pasture readings takes around 3 hours for 30 ha. I am excited to trial satellite data to see how much information it can provide. It has the potential to save me a day of work a fortnight.”

So far Sam has used the weekly images to assess field rotations and field variation. The images have shown different amounts of growth across the field over time. It has also highlighted problem areas of his farm.

“The satellite data is very interesting, we can clearly see vegetation differences between and within pastures.  Sometimes we do not get images due to cloud but I think NDVI imagery has potential to replace plate measure in the future once we have done our calibrations. I have just turned out some cows into the grazing platform and I will monitoring how this will affect the weekly imagery.” 

Field Health is available as part of fieldmargin Pro. See how it could help on your farm with a free 14-day trial. No credit card required.

Leave a Reply