Imagery Unleashed: Empowering Farmers with Next-Level Corn and Soybean Scouting | AgriGold

Imagery Unleashed: Empowering Farmers with Next-Level Corn and Soybean Scouting

Imagery Unleashed: Empowering Farmers with Next-Level Corn and Soybean Scouting

Scouting is an essential practice in corn and soybean production — enabling farmers to monitor crop health, detect pests and diseases, and make informed management decisions. Advancements in technology have revolutionized scouting techniques. Imagery can now optimize these efforts in corn

Soybeans and other dicot crops have proved to be difficult to work with due to the difference in light spectrums. Researchers are examining imagery for these crops in hopes of launching more options in the near future. 

Scouting basics

Before diving into how imagery impacts scouting, it’s important to understand the fundamentals. Proper crop scouting involves actively observing crops to identify growth stages, assess plant population, and identify weeds, pests, and diseases. Traditional scouting methods rely on visual inspection, which can be time-consuming and prone to human error. 

The power of imagery

Imagery has emerged as a game-changer. By harnessing the capabilities of aerial imagery, satellite imagery, and drones, farmers can enhance accuracy, efficiency, and early detection of stressors and abnormalities in their crops. This data-driven approach enables more informed decision-making, ultimately improving yields and profitability.

How to utilize imagery in crop scouting

To make the most of imagery in scouting, it’s crucial to select the right platform. The three most common imagery options available for farm use include:


This powerful tool provides farmers with a bird’s-eye view of their fields and delivers valuable insights into crop health, stress levels, and potential issues. Aerial imagery involves capturing high-resolution images of fields using aircrafts, such as planes or helicopters, equipped with specialized cameras or sensors.


Satellite imagery involves capturing high-resolution images of fields using satellites orbiting the earth. These are equipped with specialized sensors that can capture data across various spectral bands. Many satellite imagery services offer high-quality imagery, but this can easily be compromised by poor weather conditions or high cloud cover. Aerial imagery passes on a cloudy day are less useful. The best imagery requires a maximum reflectivity day. 


NDVI, or Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, is a remote sensing technique that quantifies and measures the health and density of vegetation in a given area. It is derived from satellite or aerial imagery and is based on the principle that healthy plant leaves (with more chlorophyll) absorb more near-infrared (NIR) light and reflect less red light. 

Calculating the ratio between NIR and red light reflectance, NDVI provides valuable insights into the vigor, density, and overall health of the crop’s canopy/vegetation. Calculated values fall between -1 and +1. Values zero through -1 are objects (i.e. houses and roads) and values zero to one indicate how healthy the plant is, with 0 being unhealthy (or dead) and +1 being the healthiest the plant can be. 

NDVI assesses plant health, detects vegetation stress (nutrient deficiencies and drought stress), monitors crop growth, and helps farmers make informed decisions. The tool doesn’t find specific diseases or nutrient needs — but simply measures overall plant health. 


Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), have become the most popular and valuable tool for crop scouting. Equipped with advanced cameras and sensors, drones capture high-resolution imagery and provide farmers with precise data from above the crops. Their maneuverability and compact size allow access to challenging areas. 

They also offer real-time data acquisition, which enables timely decision-making and prompt action. Specialized sensors can further enhance their capabilities by providing insights into crop health, stress levels, and water distribution. 

There are limitations to drones. The AgriGold agronomy team drone trials have shown that finding good stretches of uniform days for flying is difficult. For best results, drone flights need to be made between 11 am and 3 pm on very reflective days (high sunlight, no cloud cover).

Each imagery option has its own advantages and considerations. With advanced software and tools, farmers can analyze imagery data for signs of stress, disease, or nutrient deficiencies. Integrating imagery data with traditional scouting techniques further enhances accuracy and reliability. 

Eyes in the sky vs. eyes on the ground

With aerial scouting and imagery increasing in popularity, it’s important to decide which option (traditional vs aerial) is best for a specific farm. 

Traditional scouting ensures someone is ground-truthing (physically walking through fields, closely inspecting plants, and identifying any signs of pests, diseases, nutrient deficiencies, or other issues detected with or without an image). It allows for hands-on, detailed examination that can increase certainty about whether something is going on in the fields. Traditional scouting is also more cost-effective. 

On the other hand, aerial scouting utilizes advanced technology to capture aerial imagery of fields. This imagery provides a comprehensive view of the entire field, allowing for earlier detection of stressors, abnormalities, or variations in crop health. Aerial scouting offers the advantages of efficiency, scalability, and the ability to cover large areas quickly. 

Agronomic decisions such as variable rate nitrogen applications are easier with aerial scouting. Findings can help farmers decide to make later-season applications, for example. However, it is important to remember aerial scouting must be easy to use and timely. Farmers should be prepared to act on findings quickly to make the most out of the fly. 

When used correctly, aerial scouting can complement normal scouting by providing a broader perspective and enabling data-driven decision-making. By combining both traditional and aerial scouting techniques, farmers can achieve a more comprehensive understanding of their corn and soybean crops — leading to better management strategies and higher yields.

The bottom line

  • Traditional scouting involves hands-on observation to monitor crop health and identify pests, diseases, and nutrient deficiencies.
  • Aerial imagery through drones, satellites, or aircraft offers enhanced accuracy, efficiency, and early detection of stressors and abnormalities. This can facilitate data-driven decision-making for better yields and profitability.
  • While traditional scouting ensures ground-truthing and detailed examination, aerial scouting — with the ability to cover large areas quickly — can be more efficient and scalable. 
  • Combining both approaches can improve management strategies and lead to a more comprehensive understanding of crops.

Agrigold’s commitment to innovation and cutting-edge solutions gives farmers access to powerful expertise to aid in imagery knowledge that enhances scouting efforts. Reach out to your local AgriGold agronomist for further information or questions.