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Using satellite imagery and 'on the go' moisture data to harvest in tight weather windows

The 2021 harvest for growers in the Australian grain belt will be one to remember, with the effects of a La Nina weather system dumping record amounts of rain on crops that were ready to harvest.

With historically high grain prices teasing us, the inability to get out on paddocks has been frustrating, and every rotor hour on the harvester critical, especially for more delicate/high value or early crops like canola that are prone to shattering. On our own farm, we were particularly worried about two of our canola fields at our ‘Arthurs’ property between Booleroo and Appila which were very close to being ready to harvest on the 18th of November. With more rain and significant winds forecast for the following day, we were very concerned about the riper or drier areas of the field as the canola would be susceptible to shattering.

So how did we use Precision Ag hardware and mapping to manage this situation differently?

Satellite image of canola
Figure 1 - A Satamap SVI Image from 10/11/2021, just a few days before the crop was harvested. It shows the varying states of crop dry down.

With more rainy weather on the way, the collaborative decision was made to head for the shallower limestone areas of the field which had appeared to have dried down quicker. Perhaps we could ‘patch out’ and harvest these areas, to ensure the grain that was ready was in the silo before the rain and safe from shatter. The shallower soil types had a moisture reading of 6-7% so were within the grain receivals specifications. Given we didn’t have any EM38 or pH soil map data to clarify spatially where the shallow limestone is in this field, we chose to download a recent SVI Satellite image to see where the crop had dried down.

The SVI image, (Figure 1), accurately depicted what we were witnessing in the field. Satellite imagery, in simple terms, gives an indicator of crop greenness; and in this case, the parts of the canola crop that were ready to be harvested were showing up in red/orange.

So, how have we been able to be more adaptable and efficient with the Cropscan moisture monitor and PA data?

When we pulled into this field on the 18th November the average moisture reading was 9% when we harvested a canola sample, which is over the acceptable receivals limit. If we didn’t have the option of the CropScan monitor to get a more detailed and spatial moisture sample, we would have packed the header up and gone home and then tried again after the rain had gone.

We are quite confident in the accuracy of our CropScan monitor, after relying on the accurate moisture readouts which have helped us get harvesting earlier and going later in the past. We have been severely affected by canola shattering in the past, and the accuracy of the moisture monitor, combined with the imagery to confirm ‘where’ to harvest first resulted in a simple, but a financially beneficial solution.

If you're interested in accessing year-round SVI satellite imagery for your own business, head to our Precision Starter Package to learn more.


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