The Ultimate Seasonal Guide to Corn Farming & Drones

No matter if you are an experienced drone operator and grower or if you are new to this technology, this guide will help you grasp the basics of using drones with corn and show you how industry giants use drone-based analyses.

Despite the expensive equipment and heavy machinery, many growers are still far away from having solid information at hand that can help them take timely corrective actions to mitigate yield loss during the growing season in terms of stand count sowing quality and many more.

Uncertainty, time and yield loss are things which drones and drone data can help with, which is also the reason why drone technology is receiving more and more attention from corn farmers worldwide.

Why growers use drone data with corn?

Traditionally, corn growers obtain crop data by walking the field and making various estimates. However, there are quite a few downsides to this approach: it’s time-consuming, it doesn’t offer detailed information on every part of the field, and it’s usually not that accurate. With drones and drone data, you get quick and accurate data on every inch of the field.

“We can walk all we want, but it’s just a totally different view from above, to be able to know what’s good, what’s bad. You can walk those fields but seeing the whole thing and then knowing where to look has been a really big help.” — Dan Foster in RealAgriculture’s Corn School

Farms.tv reported on using drones with corn back in 2013, but the technology has advanced a great deal since then. Today, growers and companies who use drone data with corn don’t make decisions based on the plain images — rather than that, they turn to comprehensive and easy-to-use software solutions that turn complex data into something understandable. The value of the obtained data is why this technology is able to take corn farming to a whole new level.

When paired with the right kind of data processing software, drone data can improve plant counting techniques, measure plant health more efficiently and the overall field monitoring process significantly improves.

There are many kinds of analyses you can perform with drone technology:

  • Arable area analyses
  • Corn stand counts
  • Weed analyses
  • Plant stress (some reports, like the ones we at Agremo offer, show both the exact location and the intensity of water stress, diseases and pest)
  • Potential yield analyses

Corn Digital4Cast — growers using drone data for ultimate corn yield

KWS, the 5th largest seed producer in the world with a strong focus on corn, is one of the first industry giants to employ drones and drone data.

During the course of one year, growers and KWS corn seed customers were given the opportunity to implement drone technology into their workflow with the help of experts from KWS and Agremo, as part of the project Corn Digital4Cast.

Agremo Corn Mapping calendar used in Digital4Cast

Based on Agremo’s corn analyses guideline , which was created by agronomists and ag drone experts, the participants performed various analyses, from plant counts, weed analyses, stress analyses, up to yield estimations.

The growers got a clear image of the status quo of their corn fields, which allowed them to intervene whenever something was not going as planned, leading to higher yield and both lower production costs.

The project’s participants were stunned at how simple, yet useful the data from their drone data reports was.

Result layer over a corn field drone map , analyzed using the Agremo stand count analysis

During stage two of the project, where Agremo Stand Count and a Weed Analysis were performed, the grower of a 57 ha field in V3 stage learned that there were exactly 2,023,833 corn plants on his field — which was 45% percent below the expected result. 1,679,867 plants less than he had initially sown.

A more thorough analysis revealed poor germination zones correlated with the results of an earlier arable area analysis from Agremo, where the team discovered areas with a high risk of water accumulations — this allowed the grower to get to the root cause of the problem and intervene accordingly.

Map of a drone-based weed analysis of a cornfield

Later on, the grower performed an Agremo weed analysis on the same field and discovered that 21,28 percent of the corn field were heavily affected by weed.

After inspecting the high-risk zones (marked in red in the picture on the left), the grower was able to determine the exact kind of weed and apply the necessary treatment before it was able to affect his yield goal. Grower treated only the affected 30 ac (12,13 ha). Treating the remaining 109 ac (44 ha) as well would have cost him $55 per acre.

By knowing the exact location of the weed-affected areas, the grower was able to spray only where needed, and save $5,966 USD on herbicides alone!

Industry giants such as KWS recognized the tremendous value of drone analyses for corn growers, which also allowed them to gain better insights into their hybrids and their customer’s needs.

The farmers who tested the Agremo drone data reports on their corn fields reported many benefits:

  • Accurate crop and field information
  • Lower production costs
  • Monitoring data which is quick to obtain
  • Higher yield
  • Premium experience
  • Professional advisory
  • Higher sustainability.

How to use drones and drone data with corn

Despite the fact that this technology is still emerging, it’s not difficult to capture high-quality drone footage and obtain solid data from drone-based analyses. Drone-based analyses for agricultural purposes are performed by following these four simple steps:

1. Collect data

Capture the field you want to analyze with a drone. For Agremo analyses, you can use any kind of commercial drone, fixed-wing or multirotor. You can either hire a drone operator to do this for you, or do it yourself with the help of these drone mapping tips for agriculture.

2. Generate maps

Turn your images into a 2D map with tools like DroneDeploy.

3. Analyze images

Choose the analysis you want to perform and upload your 2D map. Agremo offers many different reports on plant health and plant counting, which are all available on the Agremo app.

This mapping calendar will tell you which analysis to perform for your corn to achieve the best possible results.

Best practice: Agremo Calendar

Manage fields

Access your reports on the Agremo app at any time and share them with customers, clients or colleagues. Use the results and app features to compare fields, results from different analyses, detect the cause of low yields, add comments to create added value, and much more. Read more about the features of the Agremo app.

Got questions? Drop us a line at [email protected] 

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  • Agremo Stand Count Analysis shows how successful seeding was and how many plants farmers will be able to harvest. Withal, it can help to apply different sowing standards in different parts of the plot, in order to achieve the highest yields.

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    Agroservice and Product Manager (Maize and Oil Crops), KWS SAAT AG

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    Agremo Analytics For Precision Agriculture

    • Plant Stress Analysis

      The report you receive after performing plant stress analysis is a map which clearly indicates health and problem-causing areas of the field. By identifying zones of potential stress you get a chance to act timely with the most adequate measures and increase yield potential.

    • Weed Analysis

      By making it possible to spot weed-infested areas in time, the analysis allows you to take immediate effective in-season corrective measures, optimize your weed control techniques and use proper amounts of herbicide in the right places.

    • Pest Analysis

      Pest damage analysis helps to identify the exact location and size of pest affected field area(s). It allows you to take timely and appropriate yield-saving corrective measures to prevent plant damage and crop yield reduction.

    • Plant Disease Analysis

      Agremo disease detection analysis closely examines the entire vegetated area and evaluates its current condition. The report you receive will include the exact percentage and location of field zones affected by plant diseases caused by viruses, fungi, or bacteria.

    • Flowering Analysis

      Agremo flowering estimator shows the accurate percentage of plants that have reached the flowering stage. You can use these reports to perform yield estimations, calculate the actual biomass of plants and determine the best time for harvesting and swathing

    • Stand count

      Stand count analysis determines the precise number of plants in a specific area and compares it to the expected results. You can use stand count estimation to evaluate seed quality, assess damages, and mark the zones of potential yield losses.

    • Nitrogen Status Analysis

      Agremo’s drone-based nitrogen status analysis determines and presents you with data on health variations within field zones. It gives farmers precise information they need to quickly perform soil samplings and determine where to apply fertilizer.

    • Waterlogging Analysis

      Waterlogging analysis gives the opportunity to quickly and accurately locate all potential waterlogged areas in your field and reduce the negative effects of waterlogging, regardless of the field size and crop sort.

    • Drought Analysis

      Drought analysis delivers a fast and accurate report that allows you to identify and quantify all plants affected with drought, assess their current drought status, and determine the exact areas of varying drought conditions.

    • Canopy Analysis

      Canopy analysis provides information about the exact percentage covered by canopy/leaf area and ground cover area. The report you receive includes vital data on vegetation conditions and primary plant productivity, as well as all the necessary details regarding the leaf area index.

    • Plant Stress Analysis

      The report you receive after performing plant stress analysis is a map which clearly indicates health and problem-causing areas of the field. By identifying zones of potential stress you get a chance to act timely with the most adequate measures and increase yield potential.

    • Weed Analysis

      By making it possible to spot weed-infested areas in time, the analysis allows you to take immediate effective in-season corrective measures, optimize your weed control techniques and use proper amounts of herbicide in the right places.

    • Pest Analysis

      Pest damage analysis helps to identify the exact location and size of pest affected field area(s). It allows you to take timely and appropriate yield-saving corrective measures to prevent plant damage and crop yield reduction.

    • Plant Disease Analysis

      Agremo disease detection analysis closely examines the entire vegetated area and evaluates its current condition. The report you receive will include the exact percentage and location of field zones affected by plant diseases caused by viruses, fungi, or bacteria.

    • Flowering Analysis

      Agremo flowering estimator shows the accurate percentage of plants that have reached the flowering stage. You can use these reports to perform yield estimations, calculate the actual biomass of plants and determine the best time for harvesting and swathing

    • Stand count

      Stand count analysis determines the precise number of plants in a specific area and compares it to the expected results. You can use stand count estimation to evaluate seed quality, assess damages, and mark the zones of potential yield losses.

    • Nitrogen Status Analysis

      Agremo’s drone-based nitrogen status analysis determines and presents you with data on health variations within field zones. It gives farmers precise information they need to quickly perform soil samplings and determine where to apply fertilizer.

    • Waterlogging Analysis

      Waterlogging analysis gives the opportunity to quickly and accurately locate all potential waterlogged areas in your field and reduce the negative effects of waterlogging, regardless of the field size and crop sort.

    • Drought Analysis

      Drought analysis delivers a fast and accurate report that allows you to identify and quantify all plants affected with drought, assess their current drought status, and determine the exact areas of varying drought conditions.

    • Canopy Analysis

      Canopy analysis provides information about the exact percentage covered by canopy/leaf area and ground cover area. The report you receive includes vital data on vegetation conditions and primary plant productivity, as well as all the necessary details regarding the leaf area index.