Improving Irrigation Management and Yields with Aerial Imagery

TerrAvion VS. Satellite: Irrigation Management

sat comp

Satellite imagery has been widely used in agriculture for years. It’s cheap and readily available, but what is the real value it provides to growers? For growers who are running precision ag programs, the answer is very little.

One thing growers use TerrAvion aerial imagery for is to manage their irrigation systems. Our thermal imagery allows them to see irrigation issues such as nozzle failures, pivot speed issues and water pressure issues, before they negatively impact yield. TerrAvion thermal imagery picks up any slight changes in temperature in their fields. Recently irrigated parts of a field show up as cool zones in thermal imagery. Nozzle failures will show up as warm streaking along an otherwise cool thermal swath. Once identified, these issues are easily fixed, and doing so saves growers thousands of dollars that would have otherwise been lost if not identified with imagery.

Satellite Imagery for Irrigation Management

Satellite providers do not offer thermal products and thus, offer very limited value for detecting irrigation issues early enough to prevent loss of yield.

Outside of thermal imagery, irrigation issues can be identified in high-resolution natural color imagery. In the image to the right, you can see the nozzle failure streaking in the soil. The satellite natural color image from the two days later shows only a small cloud and its shadow, no signs of streaking.

Early NDVI imagery can also reveal irrigation issues after the issue have started to impact crop performance. In the TerrAvion NDVI image to the right, you can see the resulting low vigor patterns caused be the nozzle failures. Catching this issue at this early point in the season would still allow the grower to make a yield saving fix. The satellite NDVI imagery shows some variation, but nothing that indicates the present issue, a nozzle failure.

Irrigation management is one of the many ways growers use their TerrAvion imagery to increase profits on their farms. According to a 2018 TerrAvion study done on 1000 Nebraska and Kansas center pivots, 2 out of 3 pivots are active during any given TerrAvion flight, and 1 out of 4 pivots have an amendable issue.

Please contact us, at MidPlains Ag, to discuss how TerrAvion can benefit your farm operation. Simply write to us at or

(Republished with permission from TerrAvion)

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