Remote sensing aids peanuts
The economic wallop of Texas peanut products is getting an aerial boost from Texas Tech University.
Researchers used a special airborne multi-spectral remote sensing system on an experiment peanut crop in the farming community of Brownfield.
The high-tech gear is used to estimate the plant’s biophysical characteristics, including ground cover, leaf area, biomass and yield.
“Improved monitoring of peanut crops could one day help growers have a healthier crop through improved irrigation practices and pinpoint application of fungicides,” says Stephan Maas, a Texas Tech professor of agricultural microclimatology with a joint appointment at Texas AgriLife Research, Lubbock.
Maas is a participant in the peanut project, along with Texas Tech postdoctoral research associate Nithya Rajan.
Remote sensing describes the science of identifying, observing and measuring an object without making direct contact with it. The process involves the detection and measurement of light in different wavelengths reflected by the object.
In this instance, the remote sensing system contains high-resolution digital cameras fitted with narrow band-pass filters that allow the cameras to acquire imagery in specific wavelengths of light related to plant growth.
The cameras are carried by a single-engine Cessna 172 aircraft operated by South Plains Precision Ag Inc. based in Plainview, Texas.
It is the first year Texas Tech remote sensing experts and peanut breeding specialists from New Mexico State University have used the method on peanuts, and so far, both are excited about the results.
• Remote sensing technology could help grow peanuts.
• Technology can focus in on peanut plant growth stage.
• Remote sensing can help pinpoint irrigation timing.
Helping pinpoint irrigation
“Development of relationships between biophysical characteristics and remote sensing data could allow routine monitoring of peanut crop growth and yield potential in producers’ fields,” says Naveen Puppala, a peanut breeder with New Mexico State University’s Agricultural Science Center at Clovis. “With more research on remote sensing, it will help the growers to identify the correct time to irrigate their crops.”
Digital data taken from Texas Tech’s remote sensing imagery already has been used to calculate vegetation index and the perpendicular vegetation index for the peanut canopies growing in test plots.
The two indicators are used to measure the peanut plant’s growth and leaf canopy density.
“Growing the most cost-efficient peanut is vital to the survival of Texas peanut production,” says Shelly Nutt, executive director of the Texas Peanut Producers Board, Lubbock. “Maximizing irrigation efficiency is key to peanut production profitability.”
Georgia leads the nation in peanut production, followed by Texas as the second-largest peanut producer.
In 2008, peanut production was record-breaking with the largest U.S. crop on record, along with the highest average yield on record. Total U.S. peanut production for 2008 came in at more than 5.1 billion pounds.
Martin is with Texas Tech University, Lubbock.
This article published in the February, 2010 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.