Blog
April 8, 2020

Quantifying ROI on Crop Stress Monitoring

Manal Elarab, PhD
Chief Operating Officer

Early detection of crop stress recently became a reality, but you can ask does it pay for itself? Does stress in one field justify putting the monitoring across the whole farm?
We've sat down with a few customers to quantify the ROI, and here is what we found.

How does Crop Stress detection work?

As a crop advisor or a digital agriculture manager, you are responsible to manage the stress in your farmer's crops, and be "on top of it" - spot it early, treat it whilst it is still affecting a relatively small portion of a field, and do this at a cost that makes sense when compared to the potential yield loss.

Let's take a closer look at the components of the successful scouting program:

  1. Early stress detection
  2. Tracking stress over time
  3. Deciding how and when to address the crop stress

1. Early stress detection

Many agronomists and crop advisors agree that when you see the crop stress it is too late to mitigate it. You can only help the crop that hasn't been significantly affected yet. But how is early detection possible then?

If we can't see stress, it doesn't mean it's invisible and undetectable.

Science of near infra-red sensing might seem counter-intuitive, but it's been proven to work.

Near infra-red cameras, such as those mounted on latest Earth-orbiting satellites, capture light reflected off the crop in the bands that send the stress signal well before it is visible to a human eye (7-10 days).

You might have heard of vegetation indices, such as NDVI or it's red-edge "cousin" NDRE, or Crop Canopy Chlorophyll Index (CCCI) - there are a number of case studies that demonstrate how nutrient deficiency, water stress and pest/disease are detected early using satellite imagery, or the same indices calculated from drone/aerial imagery.

So, let's face it, to detect crop stress early we have to use more than just your own eyes.

2. Tracking stress over time

How many hotspots have appeared in crops in your region over the weekend? How severe is the crop stress in those areas? If these are the questions that you might be asking yourself during the growing season, we have developed a solution that can help you work with your growers to get answers to these questions faster.

FluroSense Crop Stress detection algorithms keep careful watch of your crops throughout the season, and every week sends you reports on the stress that has occurred in your fields, quantifying the "yield hazard":

  • the date that stress was first detected;
  • the area that it covers/-ed;
  • the severity of the crop stress [HIGH, MEDIUM, LOW]
    with corresponding -% decrease in crop biomass and chlorophyll.
FluroSense provides you with an overview of the stress across your grower's farm and the details on how each stressed field has been tracking. Comes with Email alerts you can get on your iPad and iPhone.

You can access the insights described here, by providing as little as your 1) field boundaries, 2) crop type and d 3) approximate planting dates. These can also be easily imported from your farm management system.

3. Deciding when to address the crop stress

Every experienced crop advisor considers the economic implications of their recommendations to the grower, and crop stress treatment is no different.

Has the stress reached the economic threshold in this field to "pull the trigger" on it? Is this affecting enough area to replant/spray the whole field? Should we consider an in-season nitrogen application across the entire field or just in the affected area?

There is no need to wonder anymore, you can just look at the numbers.

In each crop stress alert that you receive, each of the areas, and each of the fields across the farm is ranked according to its "contribution" of stress across the farm. You can see the exact areas of crop stress, and the severity of stress in each area, as well as summaries on field and farm level. This information is designed to facilitate your discussion with the grower when choosing cost-effective solutions.

Now, let's have a look at a few examples of how crop advisors who use FluroSense have been using automated Crop Stress detection and Alerts to their advantage.

Missed opportunities and hidden costs

Many crop advisors are setting yield goals with their growers and are selecting the nutrition and the scouting program to support the desired outcome. Below is an example of how a scouting program was reviewed using FluroSense crop stress reports and alerts, and what missed opportunities were identified.

Not all scouting programs are made equal. The ones powered by FluroSense analytics have an unfair advantage of keeping advisors "on top of the situations" and the growers- informed.

Quantifying Crop Stress is important not only for decision making in-season but also postseason. You remember that patch in the field that didn't yield quite as well. Wondering what was wrong with it? Want to go back and run analytics to see if you could have reversed the outcome by offering your grower a different pre-season nutrient application program?

See below an example of crop stress reports being used to retrospectively analyse the crop performance last season and make decisions about the pre-plant nutrient applications to address persistent soil condition.

Post-season analysis is a power tool that can be run retrospectively on last year's crop giving you and your growers the opportunity to improve field/soil conditions longterm.

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