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Aerial imagery collects plant data for new project

John Hart John_Hart_Farm_Press_Joseph_Oakes_Soybeans_2021.jpg
Shown speaking at the Virginia Soybean Field Day at the Eastern Virginia Agricultural Research and Education Center in Warsaw, is center Superintendent Joseph Oakes. Oakes said the goal of the new project is to streamline data collection and reduce the amount of time it takes for station personnel to go out in the fields and collect the data.
The project will use aerial imagery to better collect data on plant height, plant lodging, pod color and maturity in soybeans.

The Eastern Virginia Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Warsaw is turning to new technology to better collect data in the field.

Speaking at the Virginia Soybean Field Day at the center Sept. 23, center superintendent Joseph Oakes announced a new project beginning this year funded by the Virginia Soybean Board and Virginia Agricultural Council that will use aerial imagery to better collect data on plant height, plant lodging, pod color, and maturity in soybeans.

Currently, station personnel go into the fields with a measuring stick to manually measure plant height and visually examine plots for maturity, lodging, and pod color.

“Determining pod color, lodging, and maturity can be a subjective rating. What you see as 95% mature might be different than what my eyes see,” Oakes said at the field day, which was moved indoors due to rain.

Oakes said the goal of the new project is to streamline data collection and reduce the amount of time it takes for station personnel to go out in the fields and collect the data. In the project, Oakes is teaming up with Bo Zhang, soybean breeder at Virginia Tech, Maria Balota, a Virginia Tech professor working out of the Tidewater Research and Extension Center in Suffolk; and Song Li, a Virginia Tech professor in Blacksburg.

“This is the first year, so I don’t have any data to show. We will go out three times a week and rate all the soybean plots for maturity and pod color Plant height and plant lodging will be collected prior to harvest. We will use a drone to collect aerial images at the same time to compare the two,” Oakes said at the field day.

Then, the images will be sent to Song Li’s lab at Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus where he will access those images for pod color and maturity, and to Maria Balota’s lab in Suffolk where she will access images for plant height and lodging.

“Hopefully, this will streamline the process and make it more standardized so our images can tell us when the plant is mature, what pod color is, and rate height and lodging” Oakes explained.

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