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Brian Luck, left, made a presentation about “Remote Sensing for Use in Agriculture” to attendees at the Pierce-St. Croix County Fall Harvest Field Day on the Tim Wiff farm in the Town of Martell Wednesday. Luck demonstrated how a key component of remote sensing in ag, a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), works. (Herald photos by Bill Kirk)

MARTELL--The new frontier in farming may be just overhead.

While Brian Luck cautioned against calling it a “drone,” he demonstrated how a similar device he referred to as a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) could be useful in agriculture during the Pierce-St. Croix County Fall Harvest Field Day at the Tim Wiff farm in the Town of Martell Wednesday.

Rain had forced Luck and those in attendance inside one of the farm’s sheds, where he was reluctant to fly the UAV because of the possibility of injury if it got out-of-control. He explained its four sets of blades are relatively flexible plastic when the machine’s not activated, but become stiff and as sharp as razor blades once it is.

Luck’s topic was “Remote Sensing for Use in Agriculture,” with the UAV as a key component. He defined remote sensing as being measurement of phenomena without being in direct contact with it. This measurement method relies on reflectance of electromagnetic energy from objects.

He listed possible uses as finding nutrient deficiencies, disease, water deficiency or surplus, weed infestations, insect damage, hail and wind damage, herbicide damage, plant population and yield production, along with overall identification of plant stress.

“A UAV provides the capability to measure a crop’s health or vigor in real-time,” he said.

The mathematical calculations made from the reflectance of a plant at differing wavelengths are known as vegetative indices, Luck said. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) is the most common. This utilizes visible light and near infrared light to quantify plant stress.

Some examples of the indices’ value are in administering nitrogen, telling hybrid differences between plants and determining different watering rates, he said.

For more please read the Sept. 10 print version of the Herald. 

Bill Kirk

Bill Kirk was editor of the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth, from 1988 to February, 2015 and is now on staff as a reporter. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He previously worked in the media distribution department at the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus and is past editor of The Tri-County News in Osseo, Wisconsin.

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