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Satellite imagery improves agriculture techniques

DigitalGlobe announced that Bowles Farming, an agriculture customer in Los Banos, US, is using 30 foot resolution SPOT satellite imagery for precision farming applications, land acquisition assessment, and improved crop quality, asset and nutrition management.
In addition to providing the imagery, DigitalGlobe worked closely with Bowles Farming to train company representatives on the use and interpretation of digital satellite imagery. Bowles Farming is a 12,000-acre family farm producing cotton, alfalfa and small grains crops. In April 2002, Cannon Michael, business operations manager for the farm, noticed that 45 acres within a 141-acre field of cotton were producing poor yields due to leakage from an irrigation canal that was causing salt build-up in the soil. The initial proposed solution was to install tile along the entire length of the canal to provide adequate drainage and divert excess water. This solution would cost $127,000 for the purchase of 9,700 feet of tile and two pumps.
After examining DigitalGlobe’s AgroWatch maps produced from SPOT imagery captured in August 2002, Cannon determined the size of the total affected area was less than half of what he initially anticipated — 4,250 feet rather than 9,700 feet. Once the actual extent of the drainage problem was identified through satellite imagery, Cannon determined that he required only 4,250 feet of tile and one pump, saving the farm $69,000 on materials alone. The anticipated revenue increase on the yield is expected to be $17,150 after the first year.
Bowles Farming views precision agriculture and other new technologies as a way to achieve production goals while maintaining a commitment to providing high-quality crops at lower production costs. In addition to identifying trouble areas, the company is using AgroWatch maps to optimize the number of acres farmed. The short-term use of these information products includes understanding field variations, identifying opportunities and implementing remediation where possible. In the long-term, Bowles Farming will use the imagery to improve crop quality, nutrition and asset management, as well as assess land acquisitions.