Monitoring performance down to the plant in organic bananas results in $1395 – $2790 increased income per year per ha.

Monitoring performance down to the plant in organic bananas results in $1395 – $2790 increased income per year per ha.

Daniel Ordonez runs a 3rd generation organic banana plantation in Ecuador. Daniel has started a company called Agrodata which offers management and practical advise to banana farmers in Machala. Daniel has been using fieldmargin to manage the precision mapping data and to share information with farm stakeholders. As the demand for organic bananas is going up (source) and all the materials and treatments used are organic and tend to be more expensive than conventional treatments increasing production efficiency is very important.

“Technology is helping us move forward, we are getting better yields within the same area. If we have optimal conditions to the banana plantations we can get 150-300 more banana boxes (18.14 kg) per year per ha. For organic banana boxes $8.5-$9 depends on the market and $9.3 for Fairtrade organic bananas boxes. In my family we produce fairtrade organic bananas so we are talking about $1395 – $2790 more income per year per ha.”

At Daniel’s plantation they have been researching how drones can be used to increase productivity. The high resolution of the imagery collected (3-5 cm / pixel)  means that he can capture data for individual banana plants.  Daniel uploads and stores all his maps on fieldmargin using our integration with Drone Deploy. Having the maps instantly available in the field means that they are much more useful than saved on a computer back in the office.

Planning

Bananas crop rotations are 25 years long so getting the plan right is very important.  Daniel has used drone imagery on fieldmargin to plan crop establishment.  He used features on fieldmargin to mark out key infrastructure and measure key material requirements. These include primary and secondary drainage pipes and the cables that cross through the field in order to carry the banana bunches to the processing plant.

“I only have a few months to organise the planting so I need to know exactly the amount of material and staff required for the maintenance. Using elevation data from DroneDeploy I was able to work out the best place to build the processing plant to get the most efficient use of the land.” 

Early growth 

Daniel used drone imagery and located notes in fieldmargin to monitor plantation establishment. In the example below you can see where Daniel has marked gaps in the canopy using a note in fieldmargin to indicate the areas that need to be replanted. 

“Using fieldmargin I was able to make planting practices more efficiently as now I can instantly share with my supervisor where I need to replant and how many. I have added plant counts to each field and designed the numbers between each secondary drainages (the blue lines in the image below).“

Crop monitoring

Banana production takes 10 to 14 months from planting to harvest. At Daniel’s plantation organic fertilisers are used to revitalise the soil and maintain soil health. The biggest danger to a successful crop is the high humidity levels required for growth which means bananas are at risk of mould, pests and disease. Regularly monitoring of the 2,000 ha of plantations is needed in order to ensure issues are not overlooked. The team use fieldmargin notes to add any observations, record fertiliser rates and add photographs as they go.

Bananas also need a lots of nutrients, mainly Nitrogen for vegetative growth and Potassium to reach optimum bunch weight and numbers. Using the drone’s camera and infrared sensors Daniel maps NDVI, chlorophyll index and plant stress measurements in his banana canopy. This allows him to see variations in performance and change management accordingly.  

“The organic products we need to use are almost the double the price of fertilizers used in conventional bananas so tracking down stress and red edge NDVI (could be associated to foliar nitrogen) make our fertilization practices much more efficient, we save a few hundred dollars per ha but have been seeing better results as we only use the product where it is needed.”

Plant health analysis

Developing the right watering regime and drainage systems is very important. Bananas need lots of water to grown and fill the bunch but if the conditions are too wet the risk of fungus increases like Black Sigatoka (mycospharella fijensis). 

“Disease effects the banana leaves and reduces the photosynthesis in the plant so tracking down all this indexes, chlorophyll stress and red edge NDVI mixed with high resolution imagery let us spot the zone in the field that requires attention. We can change the amount of water used based on the requirements of the crop just by tracking the chlorophyll content in canopy. We can also make our fertilisation practices much more efficient, maybe saving a few hundred dollars per ha but having better results.”

The image below shows an example of a red edge NDVI map showing problems in the field. 

“In the NDVI map below I saw red areas in the imagery. When I did a ground assessment check I noticed that the phreatic zone [the zone where all pores in the soil are saturated with water] was above the effective root depth so the drainage depth (130cm) in this section of the field was not able to keep the water away from the root zone. I was able to reduce the water and reverse damage.”

“We are very pleased with the results achieved through the drone system and fieldmargin over the first two years of use. We have been able to transform our agriculture practises by integrating multiple softwares to make timely management decisions.”

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