Farm Table says:
This article is a case study on the OCEALIA Group’s – a French farming cooperate with 7,200 members and nearly 900 employees – use of drones to capture fertilisation data.
The group have utilised two drones since 2015 to fly over 3,900ha of oilseed rape and 3,300ha of wheat, barley and triticale.
Romain Faroux, CEO and co-founder of AIRINOV, stated that they use the imagery to “provide reliable advice to optimize the application of nitrogen. It’s about applying the right amount of nitrogen, at the right time, in the right place in the field.”
In addition, the technical and agronomist teams on farm use the images to improve the knowledge of individual fields.
How the drones were used
The drones are typically flown once or twice per season per farmer. They fly at an altitude of 150m above groups. According to senseFly, the flight height and capability of the camera result in an image resolution on the ground of approximately 30cm/pixel.
The drones can map crops at the rate of three hectares/minute.
Non-visible data of crops is also captured, which is then processed into imagery to allow for a precise crop assessment by agronomists. The data can be used to measure dry matter, nitrogen absorption at key stages of the crop development.
“The flight is then planned about a week before fertiliser application and the data used to variably apply the season’s third and fourth fertiliser inputs,” stated Crousy.
For oilseed rape, the drones are flown at the start of winter and again at the end to calculate biomass loss. The data can tell a lot about the size and strength of the crop, and the amount of nitrogen that has not been absorbed since last application. Faroux said. “The aim again is to advise a farmer how much fertiliser to apply. This recommended amount is then usually applied in two or three different inputs during spring.”
The article reports that farmers using the AIRINOV-supported drone “have recorded an average yield increase of 10%, compared to parcels analysed using traditional, non-drone methods.”