Report Synopsis

Remote Sensing in Crop Production: Applications and Value

Kristina Polziehn

Remote sensing is the science of detecting and monitoring information about the Earth’s surface through measuring reflected or emitted energy at a distance. The advancement in sensor technology to measure spectral emittance and reflectance has not only improved our understanding of agronomic factors but also improved its application in crop management.

This report reviewed different examples of applications of remote sensing in crop production, through global travel. Under various cropping systems remote sensing data has been utilized across many crops to monitor plant growth and detect plant stresses as they relate to water, nutrient and pest management. In addition, progress continues in developing remote sensing tools for monitoring crop development, screening new crop varieties and yield modelling.

The report further examined the value remote sensing data has for farmers and agronomists. Remote sensing can provide important information for crop management decisions but can also assist in determining management zones for variable rate technologies. One obstacle for remote sensing imagery adoption is the direct economic value it provides as many of the benefits are realized through a combination of other precision agriculture technologies.

Many aerial imagery data applications require additional analysis and interpretation to become actionable and usable which can translate to additional costs and outside expertise for usable applications. Similarly, further value of the remote sensing imagery comes when it is combined with additional data pertaining to agronomic practices, weather and climate, soil and plant development and rolled into a comprehensive, functional tool. In Canada, more focus is needed to develop and expand these tools through present crop modelling initiatives and international collaboration.

Current adoption of precision agriculture technologies such as the utilization of remote sensing data remains slow, despite a long, embedded history in crop production. Progress to move forward our adoption of these technologies will require more investment of money and time into precision agriculture workshops, technology transfer programs, precision agriculture university degree programs and high-level precision agriculture research pertinent to Canada.

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