Painting a picture for your agronomist: Considerations for in-field photos

(Liang Qu/ BY-SA 2.0

Face-to-face interaction is even more rare than usual these days. Having the time or ability to schedule an agronomist to come to your field can be tricky, but that doesn’t stop issues from popping up in your field, however.

Agronomists can assist us from afar, though, with the help of the little cameras in our pockets. However, there are certain things you’re going to want to capture in order to make sure said agronomist can really understand what is going on in your field.

Jeremy Boychyn, agronomy research extension specialist with Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions, says when you’re assessing impact — whether it be disease, insect, or environmental issues — you want to paint a picture that shows your situation from both 10,000 feet up and an inch away.

In order to do this, you’ll need to ask yourself a few important questions — and take pictures of the answers — says Boychyn, including:

  • Is the issue in low areas of the fields? Is it in high areas of the fields?
  • Am I seeing it close to borders?
  • Am I seeing it more in the centre, or more at entrances?
  • Am I seeing it in irregular patterns?
  • Does it move with the landscape?
  • Is it potentially more of a man-made pattern — where you see a straight line going up the field?

“Asking those questions to yourself first, can then help later down the road when you are trying to make a decision of what is actually impacting my crop right now,” says Boychyn.

From there, you’ll want to get into the closer images of whatever issue you are seeing on the plant.

“Get multiple examples of similar but different symptoms of what you’re seeing. Not every disease or issue that comes up looks the same on every plant through the issues timeline on that plant,” explains Boychyn. “We might see more or less of those issues in different parts of the field. So you really want to paint a wide picture of whats going on. Nothing is more challenging then when you get a single picture of a single plant, and someone says ‘what is this’.”

Boychyn also acknowledges when producers are asking their agronomist a question virtually, the answer quite often is “it depends.” By capturing these images, we can mitigate those answers by showing what is going on across the field, as well as the micro level of individual plants.

Another important note to remember when taking pictures for your agronomist — the phone you have will likely take high enough quality photos, as long as we remember to focus those cameras.

“I can immediately think of multiple images I’ve gotten where I have to squint and say ‘is that canola, or is that wheat,’ so yes, absolutely. Make sure that you know how to use the tool that you’re using,” Boychyn explains. “There’s no need to get too fancy — leave that up to the scientists when they’re trying to get good images of certain issues. We just want to get a good idea of what’s going on.”

It can also be helpful to include something for scale, such as a ruler or glove, and make sure to include as many details as possible in your description.

Want to hear more? Listen to Boychyn’s full discussion on the t0pic during this Q&A!

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