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Soybean Watch: Be cautious about making yield estimates without seeing whole field.

Tom J Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

September 20, 2019

3 Min Read
drone flying
UP AND AWAY: Steve Gauck piloted this drone over the Soybean Watch ’19 field to get a better view of plant stands and potential problems across the entire field.

Walking soybean fields late in the season becomes a chore. The temptation is to walk in a short distance from the end rows and make your observations about the field and yield from that point. If you do that this year, Steve Gauck says you may be disappointed once the combine runs. What you see in one spot may not reflect what you get for field averages in 2019.

“Many fields looked pretty good late in the season from the road, even though they were planted late,” says Gauck, a sales agronomist for Beck’s. Soybean Watch ’19 is sponsored by Beck’s.

“The problem is that many fields have various types of blemishes in one part of the field or another which you can’t see from the ground unless you walk the whole field,” he says. “An aerial image does a much better job of helping you determine if a field is uniform, or if there are spots which have issues. You may even be able to identify what the issues are from an aerial view.”

Gauck flew his unmanned aerial vehicle over the Soybean Watch ’19 field in August. He flies a DJI Phantom 4 Pro. Although zoom capabilities are limited, he can fly lower over spots where he wants to investigate potential causes of problems.

From the air

For example, from the ground, even walking a couple of hundred feet into the field, soybeans looked fairly uniform on the day Gauck flew the drone, he says. He noted some differences due to varieties, but otherwise, plants were healthy, and stands were certainly acceptable.

Related:How soybeans compensate for missing plants

“Looking at the aerial view, we noticed some thinner spots farther back in the field,” Gauck says. “Perhaps they were wetter areas where the stand isn’t as good. Plants were either missing or smaller, and the canopy wasn’t as robust. We’re not talking huge areas, but they were large enough to potentially influence the average yield for the field if those spots don’t yield as well.”

bare spots and other blemishes seen in field from drone

AERIAL VIEW: Note the wet spots, which showed up as bare spots, and other blemishes when the Soybean Watch ’19 field was viewed from the air in August.

The aerial view also picked up locations along the end of the field where the drill was either raised too soon completing a pass or not engaged soon enough coming in for the next pass. “Again, it’s not a big deal, but it’s something you pick up much easier from an aerial view,” he says.

The field was no-tilled with a John Deere 750 drill on June 12. Normally, the operator only uses a split-row planter these days. However, he opted to run the planter and the drill to get more acres covered due to the super-late planting window.

“We also saw a few patches of weeds show up in the back part of the field from the air,” Gauck adds. “Weed control was good where we walked, and from what we could see from the ground. The beans had been sprayed recently, so the weeds may have died later. Still, it’s good to know what might affect yield in those areas.”

Knowing where weed patches are is a good way to fine-tune plans for 2020, Gauck concludes.  

About the Author(s)

Tom J Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

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