All indications are that crop imaging will be a big part of the future for crop management. It has taken 40 years, but some of the services offered this summer indicate that it may go mainstream in the near future. This time the near future might be next year or at least within five years, not 40 years.
Craig Rogers with Beck's Hybrids saw value when helping customers this year with the imaging pilot program they offered. Beck's intends to expand the type of images they can offer in the future.
Rogers says that you can pick up many different kinds of things that were done differently within a field, not just hybrid or variety differences. The images that reveal the most generally are from late summer. However, there are also efforts to take images earlier so that some problems could still be corrected in the growing crop.
Imaging still needs ground truthing, a least at this phase in its development. That means pinpointing a spot where there appears to be something different, and using GPS to go to the spot. The object is to verify whether what you thought you saw in the image is real, and if so, get a better handle on what might have caused the difference in the area you're checking vs. other areas in the field. You may need access to yield maps from the past and soil test information to help put the pieces of the puzzle together.
The ultimate ground truthing scenario is when you combine the field. If you had an image, the parts that look different might show up as different yields when you go through the field. With yield monitors, even without GPS, you can watch what happens as you combine through certain spots. Having GPS and mapping capabilities makes it much easier to compare to the images taken aerially during the season after harvest and attempt to explain what caused the differences.