Farmers wishing to maximize crop yields may find their answers by viewing satellite imagery of their fields. A program offered by SilverEdge Cooperative in Edgewood allows crop producers to view historical satellite data of their fields to help them make better business decisions in the future.

Bruce Hemann, seed and agronomy salesman for SilverEdge Cooperative, said the program is offered by Winfield, the agronomy division of Land O’Lakes. Hemann said Winfield uses the satellite data to help producers make decisions about seed genetics, soil type, plant population, crop rotation, seed traits, nutrition and crop protection.

“Using this satellite data, we can look at several years’ worth of field data and see what parts of the field are more productive than others,” said Hemann.

Hemann said the data can help drive decisions about the correct hybrid to plant and at what numbers, along with what nutrients to apply. “Mother Nature controls about 25 percent of your yield potential,” he said. “Some soil types are always limited with what they will yield. With a drop in commodity prices, farmers are trying to make more on acres that produce more, while spending less money on acres that produce less.”

Hemann said the satellites fly over every couple of days. “Usually we can access the satellite within two days of the flyover.” Hemann can call up the imagery on an iPad. “ I can use Google Earth and send a file directly to the grower, who can put it on his iPad,” he said. “We can then walk through the field seeing the good parts of the field from the marginal spots.”

Hemann said the images can help growers make decisions other than seed application. “We can tailor nitrogen applications to put more where we have better soil and more plants, and less where the soil is less productive,” he said. “That’s good economically, but it’s also good environmentally. We’re not dumping nitrogen on places it’s not going to do the grower any good.”

Drones are being used more and more to analyze crops and fields. Hemann noted the difference between drones and satellite images. “Drones can give more real-time data on a smaller scale. The idea of this imagery is to get a macro view of field health.”

He said the biggest hurdle with the satellite imagery is whether the producer has the technology to use the information. “Usually, once a producer makes the jump to use the technology, if they have a good experience with it, they become believers,” he said.

Hemann said the satellite maps and imagery are also an advantage for him. “I can know nothing about your farm, but when I pull up the maps, I have data that can begin the conversation as to how we can help you,” he said.