Brazil had the highest deforestation rate in the world. In the 1960s, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon became more widespread as policies were introduced to eliminate hunger and to pay off its debt obligations. Much of the new arable land in the region had poor soil, which made plantation-based agriculture unprofitable, especially for corn and soybean crops.
In February 2017, the Aker team visited one of the largest Ag retailers and grower network near Palmas in the Brazilian Para region to explore how high resolution imagery can help improve crop management efficiency, increase sales and drive higher yields across their grower network. We learned that Brazil has very talented agronomists with deep knowledge of soil and traditional fertilizers. Farm and field sizes are much larger than US average and so equipment and input logistics is a premium concern in these area. As first to plant crops go into the ground, there are big basic input deficiencies. Not unlike the Midwest, this region in Brazil has similar soil acidity problems which requires significant lime to raise the soil pH to optimal levels for local crop production.
Our focus was a large plantation with soybean crop near maturity. The most common in-season crop stress problems in Brazil are crop-munching caterpillars, aphids and soybean rust. Crop monitoring is largely done via manual field scouting, which is insufficient to adequately treat pests and diseases, especially in such a large area.
Aker was able to bring its drone service to scan and process – in 35 hours – over 3,500 acres across two local farms. Much of this region has no Internet access and Aker’s offline processing and mobile scouting capability was the only viable solution. Farm agronomist and local operations managers were impress with Aker’s image details and mobile directed crop scouting which guided them quickly to impacted crop zones particularly with affected caterpillar infestation, soil erosion from sandy soils and other fertility issues. Growers can now use and improve their variable seeding prescription and enhance their productivity for crop scouting across variable planting and maturity date fields which are affected by a variety of environmental issues.
Needless to say, improving the input to yield ratio supported by imagery will lead to increased efficiency and profitable farming, which will stimulate forest preservation.
We are eager to see what the future brings as Brazil continues to embrace precision farming and better crop monitoring practices.
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