Wheat Farming with DJI Agriculture Drone Solutions

Wheat Fields

 

A complete solution guide for using DJI Agriculture drones when farming wheat

 

Wheat's legacy is tangible in every slice of bread, each mouthful of pasta, and countless pastoral vistas. From ancient civilizations to modern societies, wheat has played a crucial role in feeding the masses and sustaining economies. It is grown worldwide, underscoring its importance across cultures and eras.

 

 

 

In 2023, data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) revealed that worldwide wheat production reached a striking 786.701 million metric tons. Leading the charge in production were China, the European Union, India, and the United States, with China leading at approximately 17% of the global total, equating to 136.590 million metric tons. In the United States, wheat production, encompassing winter, spring, and durum varieties, was estimated at 1.81 billion bushels (49.3 million metric tons), harvested from an expanse of 37.3 million acres (15.1 million hectares).

However, with traditional wheat farming methodologies facing modern challenges head on, the emergence of drone technology in agriculture presents a renaissance in crop management.

 

Confronting Conventional Challenges

 

Today's wheat farming is fraught with challenges. Traditional farming methods are often inefficient, rely heavily on expensive chemicals, and are hindered by the limitations of ground machinery. This leads to constraints that limit both the scale and quality of wheat production.

 

When it comes to tasks like spraying and spreading in wheat fields, farmers face several key issues:

 

  1. Low efficiency in monitoring crops for pests and diseases. 
     
  2. Overuse of chemicals through a blanket-coverage approach.
     
  3. Limitations of ground machinery, including difficulties post-rain, crop damage from wheels, and soil compaction.
     
  4. Challenges in adapting machinery and methods to various scenarios.

 

Benefits of DJI Agriculture Drones for Soybean Farming

 

Standing resolute against the constraints of traditional practices, DJI Agriculture drones unveil a myriad of advantages that transform the landscape of wheat farming. Their precision, versatility, and capacity to surpass the limitations of conventional techniques herald a new era for wheat farmers globally.

 

To highlight the benefits of drone technology for wheat farming, it's crucial to outline the specific advantages they provide:

 

1. A New Perspective on Crop Monitoring

 

Monitoring crop growth is key for guiding farming tasks like spraying and spreading. Traditional methods for tracking seed germination, pests, and diseases, such as field walks, helicopter rides, or satellite imagery, often fall short in efficiency or quality.

 

Enter the DJI Mavic 3 Multispectral (M3M) drone, revolutionizing field scouting with the ability to map 200 hectares (494 acres) in a single flight (Remark 1). This compact drone's RGB and multispectral cameras can capture imagery that can create high-resolution color or NDVI maps for monitoring crop growth and generating prescription maps. This solution offers agronomists instant access to high-quality images for efficient scouting and identifying areas of concern.

 

For example, areas with a low NDVI index (red) indicate poor wheat growth or failure to germinate, while high-index areas (green) show robust growth and germination. The M3M drone strikes the perfect balance between accuracy and efficiency, outperforming previous methods.

 

 

2. Precision Application: The Art of Focused Farming

 

Weed control and fertilizer application are crucial steps in the wheat farming cycle, ones that markedly influence both the economics and ecology of the farm. DJI Agriculture drones, with their ability to accurately target specific areas, ensure that the application is not just timely but tailored, effectively reducing chemical wastage and costs while improving the overall health of the crop.

 

At the "burn down" stage, farmers typically spray the entire field to ensure optimal germination conditions for wheat seeds. However, as the wheat grows, so do random weeds, prompting farmers to spray the whole field again, which is both inefficient and costly.

 

Thanks to NDVI imagery from drones, farmers can now differentiate between wheat and weeds. This allows for targeted spraying, where only weed-infested areas are treated, significantly reducing chemical use. For example, using the zonation method, a field can be divided into two classes: For parts representing weeds, the application rate of herbicide was set at 12.14 L/ha, while the parts representing just wheat were assigned an herbicide application rate of 0. Tools like DJI Smart Farm Web (Ref. 4) or DJI Terra can be used to generate precise maps for automatic precision spraying.

 

 

 

Additionally, NDVI imagery can also provide vital information on crop growth, influencing decisions on fertilizer application rates and farming practices. A prescription map for granular fertilizer on wheat, for instance, can indicate application rates based on color depth. This drone-based approach helps farmers achieve protection and regulatory goals with minimal chemical use.

 

The deeper the color, the higher the application rate

 

 

3. Overcoming Conventional Challenges

 

One major concern is the impact of rain on wheat farming. Rain is essential for wheat growth, but it can disrupt the critical period for chemical spraying, especially during the peak summer season. Once the soil is wet, ground machines may need to wait almost a week before they can work again.

 

Another issue is the damage to wheat caused by machinery. The photo below shows how tractor wheels create tracks in farmlands, crushing crops in their path and leading to yield loss. Additionally, large wheels pose a risk of soil compaction, which can negatively affect future crop planting.

 

Agriculture drones offer significant benefits for post-rain work and crop protection with their contactless operation. They eliminate yield losses due to wheel tracks, reduce the risk of soil compaction, and provide an immediate solution for spraying when other solutions are not available, especially right after heavy rainfall.

 

 

 

4. Higher Adaptability for All Wheat Spraying Demands

 

DJI Agriculture drones equipped with centrifugal sprinklers for adjustable droplet sizes and bolstered by DJI O3 Transmission stability, are capable of meeting the diverse demands of wheat spraying with unparalleled adaptability.

 

Throughout the wheat growth cycle, farmers apply various liquid chemicals, including herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, and nitrogen, to enhance crop health and yield. Each chemical has specific application requirements to maximize effectiveness and minimize environmental impact.

 

For instance, herbicides require careful application to avoid drifting onto nearby crops or into the environment. One solution is using a larger droplet size to reduce drift. Conversely, pesticides are more effective with a finer droplet size, ensuring better contact with pests and improving elimination rates.

 

DJI drones, equipped with centrifugal sprinklers, offer a revolutionary way to adjust droplet size by changing the disk spinning speed. This adjustment can be made directly through the software panel on the drone's remote controller, simplifying the process compared to traditional methods.

 

 

 

Because wheat is cultivated in diverse terrains worldwide, from vast open plains in China to rolling hills in the northwestern United States, it's essential to have a stable signal between the remote controller and the drone throughout operations. DJI's O3 Transmission technology ensures a strong and stable connection during flights, covering distances up to 2 km (1.24 miles). In mountainous or hilly regions, an optional DJI Relay enhances signal stability. Additionally, Agras drones' Terrain Following capability allows for safe operation over different wheat farming landscapes, making them an invaluable tool for modern wheat farmers.

 

 

 

Drone Application Opportunities in Wheat Farming

 

The role of DJI drones in wheat farming is not limited to a single stage in the crop's lifecycle but is rather a web of services that span the spectrum of agricultural applications. At every stage of the wheat production journey, from planting to harvesting, drones are ready to help the process.

 

 

Drone applications in different wheat growth stages:

  • Stage 1: Emergence herbicide application
     
  • Stage 4 to 7: Post-emergence herbicide and insecticide application, fertilizer application
     
  • Stage 10 to 10.1: Golden window to apply fungicide (4-7 days)

 

Preparatory Stages Before Planting

 

The Feekes Scale of Wheat Development helps describe wheat's growth stages. Before or at Stage 1, farmers can apply emergence herbicide, including after-rain and targeted spot treatments. Imagine using thermal imaging to check the soil for perfect seedbed conditions, or spreading pre-seeding fertilizers and managing weeds with ease. These preparatory steps, critical for the upcoming growth cycle, are effortlessly managed by drones.

 

Tending to the Crop in Growth Stages

 

At stages 4 and 7, farmers can use drones to check for weeds and pests to determine the need for post-emergence herbicides and insecticides. Depending on the wheat's growth, they can also use drones to apply extra granular fertilizer or liquid nitrogen. Wheat growth requires specific attention at each stage, from improving germination to keeping the young crop healthy. Drones are crucial in this process, pinpointing growth zones and tailoring care to precisely meet the crop's needs.

 

Harvest Support and Yield Optimization

 

Stages 10 to 10.1 is the prime time for fungicide use, with a narrow window of just 4-7 days. Drones, with their high availability and flexibility, can cover most farmland quickly, no matter the size or terrain. They also play a crucial role in the final steps of wheat farming. Offering a bird's eye view for harvest planning, analytics, optimizing the slash-and-spread process, and monitoring transportation, drones demonstrate their versatility across all wheat farming tasks.

 

Best Practices for Drone Wheat Spraying

 

The precision spraying of chemicals in wheat fields is pivotal for a crop free from pests and diseases, and ultimately, a bountiful yield. Deploying DJI Agriculture Drone Solutions requires a strategically developed flight plan. Embracing best practices is essential for unleashing the full potential of drone technology in wheat cultivation. Below, we offer guidance on selecting the appropriate drones and strategies for flying them effectively when treating your wheat fields.

 

  1. Recommended post-emergence herbicide application parameters
     

 

T40

T30

Application Rate

2-3 gal/acre (18.7-28 L/ha)

2 gal/acre (18.7 L/ha)

Droplet Size (µm)

420 µm

XR11002VS

Flight Speed

20 ft/s (6m/s)

20 ft/s (6 m/s)

Route Spacing

23 ft (~7 m)

20 ft (~6 m)

Height above the crop

10 ft (3 m)

10 ft (3 m)

 

  1. Recommended fungicide application parameters
     

 

T40

T30

Application Rate

2-3 gal/acre (18.7-28 L/ha)

2 gal/acre (18.7 L/ha)

Droplet Size (µm)

320 µm

XR11002VS

Flight Speed

23 ft/s (7 m/s) for better CV (evenness)

32 ft/s (10 m/s)

23 ft/s (7 m/s)

Route Spacing

28 ft (~8.5 m)

25 ft (~7.5 m)

Height above the crop

10ft (3m)

10ft (3m)

* These are parameter recommendations based on general conditions. Please consult your agronomist and the chemical label to evaluate result requirements and terrain characteristics before proceeding.

 

 

References:

1. https://ipad.fas.usda.gov/cropexplorer/cropview/commodityView.aspx?cropid=0410000

2. https://u.osu.edu/knoxcountyag/2022/04/21/wheat-growth-stages/

3. https://ag.dji.com/smartfarm-web

 

Remarks:

1. Mapping efficiency in this case is under following parameters setting:

Flight speed: 15 m/s, flight altitude: 217 m, ground sampling distance (GSD): 5.73 cm for visible and 10 cm for multispectral.

 

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