This week’s issue of the eUpdate marks the return of the weekly Vegetation Condition Report maps, newly revised and improved. These maps can be a valuable tool for making crop selection and marketing decisions.
The objective of these reports is to provide users with a means of assessing the relative condition of crops and grassland. The maps can be used to assess current plant growth rates, as well as comparisons to the previous year and relative to the 27-year average. The report is used by individual farmers and ranchers, the commodities market, and political leaders for assessing factors such as production potential and drought impact across their state.
In November 2015, Dr. Nan An, Imaging Scientist, started working on a new version of the Vegetation Condition Reports (VCR). Dr. An has been collaborating with Dr. Antonio Ray Asebedo, assistant professor and lab director of the Precision Agriculture Lab in the Department of Agronomy at Kansas State University, on the new VCR development. Multiple improvements have been made to the VCR, such as new image processing algorithms with new remotely sensed data from EROS Data Center.
These improvements increase sensitivity for capturing more variability in plant biomass and photosynthetic capacity. However, the same format as the previous versions of the VCR maps was retained, thus allowing the transition to be as seamless as possible for the end user. For this spring, it was decided not to incorporate the snow cover data, which had been used in past years. However, this feature will be added back at a later date. In addition, production of the Corn Belt maps has been stopped, as the continental U.S. maps will provide the same data for these areas. Dr. Asebedo and Dr. An will continue development and improvement of the VCRs and other advanced maps throughout 2016.
The maps in this issue of the newsletter show the current state of photosynthetic activity in Kansas, and the continental U.S., with comments from Mary Knapp, assistant state climatologist:
Figure 1. The Vegetation Condition Report for Kansas for January 26 - February 1 from K-State’s Precision Agriculture Laboratory shows that the area of highest biomass production spreads northward from Harper and Sumner counties. Favorable moisture and milder-than-normal winter temperatures have accelerated growth in these areas. The weekly average soil temperature at the 2-inch depth for the Harper County Mesonet station was 39.0 degrees F.
Figure 2. Compared to the previous year at this time for Kansas, the current Vegetation Condition Report for January 26 - February 1 from K-State’s Precision Agriculture Laboratory shows much of the state with higher photosynthetic activity. Only the North Central Division has lower photosynthetic activity this year. This is mainly the result of snow cover from the previous winter storm that left snow totals in the 8- to 12-inch range. Impacts from the snow from the most recent storm won’t be visible until next week’s map.
Figure 3. Compared to the 27-year average at this time for Kansas, this year’s Vegetation Condition Report for January 26 - February 1 from K-State’s Precision Agriculture Laboratory shows that most of the state continues to have above-average photosynthetic activity. The Southwest and South Central Divisions have the largest areas of above-average photosynthetic activity as moisture continues to be favorable, despite the relatively dry January. Temperatures have been close to average for the week. As with the previous image, the reduced vegetative activity in North Central Kansas is largely due to the late January snowstorm.
Figure 4. The Vegetation Condition Report for the U.S for January 26 - February 1 from K-State’s Precision Agriculture Laboratory shows that the highest level of photosynthetic activity is in the Deep South, where favorable temperatures continue. Lack of vegetative activity in the Pacific Northwest is actually very positive as it indicates a substantial snowpack. Lingering impacts of the December flooding can be seen in reduced vegetative activity in the lower Mississippi River Valley.
Figure 5. The U.S. comparison to last year at this time for the period January 26 – February 1 from K-State’s Precision Agriculture Laboratory shows that lower NDVI values are most evident in the Pacific Northwest, while much higher NDVI values are visible in the Great Lakes region. Snow is the major driver for both. The Great Lakes area continues to have a low-snow season, while the Pacific Northwest has a higher snow pack than last year. This has resulted in significant drought relief, although much more precipitation is needed.
Figure 6. The U.S. comparison to the 27-year average for the period January 26 – February 1 from K-State’s Precision Agriculture Laboratory shows below-average photosynthetic activity in western Washington and Northern Idaho. Decreases in both of these areas are due largely to a very snowy pattern this winter. The impact of the East Coast blizzard at the end of January is also clearly visible as reduced NDVI readings. The increased NDVI readings in eastern Montana and North Dakota is of concern. Snow pack in these areas is below average, and abnormally dry conditions are beginning to develop in the region.
Mary Knapp, Weather Data Library
Ray Asebedo, Precision Agriculture
Nan An, Imaging Scientist