When the Native Americans grew corn, they buried fish heads at the base of each plant because they knew the soil needed nutrients to replenish the soil. As simple as that might sound, that’s the basis for soil nutrient mining.
Every farmer knows that you can’t endlessly plant crops on the same land. That’s why farmers often rotate crops or allow the land to lie fallow. Each time you plant crops, the crops take nutrients out of the soil. The only way to replenish the land is to put additional nutrients back into the ground.
The simplest way to do this is by applying fertilizer. On small farms, this can be as simple as collecting manure but on larger farms, this isn’t usually practical. In those cases, farms must purchase additional fertilizer. The problem lies in knowing where to apply fertilizer and in the proper amounts.
In a backyard garden, it’s easy to monitor plants individually, but on even the smallest farm, it’s simply not practical to monitor plants on such a one-on-one basis. Soil sampling can help you understand nutrient conditions in various areas and satellite imaging can also identify broad conditions of a plot of land. However, the ideal situation would be to know not only where to apply fertilizer to replenish the soil with nutrients, but also knowing how much to apply.
That’s where drone technology can help. Like satellites, drones can quickly map a large area. Yet like soil sampling, drones are close enough to the ground to detect minute changes in nutrient density to pinpoint exactly which areas need more nutrients and how much they might need. By properly applying nutrients, farmers can not only avoid applying too much (which costs money), but also avoid nutrient runoff that pollutes the environment. Applying too much fertilizer is literally flushing money down the drain.
Drone technology isn’t necessarily a replacement for soil sampling or satellite imagery but just another tool to help farmers better analyze the conditions of their farmland. At one time, farmers viewed satellite imagery as a high-tech luxury. Today it’s virtually a necessity for any large scale farm. Right now, drone technology may seem like a high-tech luxury but like satellite imagery, one day it will become commonplace. The only question is how soon will you want to take advantage of this technology?