LiDAR Technology in the Agricultural Industry

Light Detection and Ranging or LiDAR is a method for determining ranges by targeting an object with a laser and measuring the time for the reflected light to return to the receiver. LiDAR can also be used to make digital 3-D representations of areas on the earth’s surface and ocean bottom, due to differences in laser return times, and by varying laser wavelengths. It is commonly used to make high-resolution maps, with applications in surveying, geodesy, geomatics, archaeology, geography, geology, geomorphology, seismology, and the likes. These would make it perfect to be used in the agricultural industry.

Seeding & Fertilizing

In some countries, automated devices have been used for a variety of purposes ranging from seed and fertilizer dispersions, sensing techniques as well as crop scouting for the task of weed control. LiDAR can help determine where to apply costly fertilizer. It can create a topographical map of the fields and reveal slopes and sun exposure of the farmland. Researchers at the Agricultural Research Service used this topographical data with the farmland yield results from previous years, to categorize land into zones of high, medium, or low yield. This indicates where to apply fertilizer to maximize yield.

Soil Analysis

LiDAR can easily do topographic analysis and predict soil properties. Topography stands for the study of shape and land features of landscape. It helps in slope determination, aspects and elevations which benefit the management practices to direct limitation in production. Soil type, soil erosion risk can be calculated and then observed for more productivity.

Experts can easily determine the soil type and soil content from the data generated and gives advice to the farmers on the best possible farming practices also help farmers in choosing crop types and fertilizers.

Soil erosion, majorly the top soil which is more nutritive and highly productive is flown away due to heavy rainfall. This affects crop yield. The erosion occurs in the form of sheets and rills mostly during heavy storms. Soil erosion risk maps can be generated using LiDAR and the RUSLE. LiDAR generated data can help in reducing erosion by adopting various cropping methods.

Crop Analysis

Using these insights, 3D models can be prepared and farmers can predict crop yields in any given place which will help in maximizing the profits. LiDAR can be used to detect water flow paths in the field, water catchments, locating trees and terrain analysis. Water flow direction in and near the farmland will help farmers in water management and in irrigation practices.

Crop Quality analysis can be done using LiDAR generated data and can be compared to the ideal standard. Airborne LiDAR survey helps in monitoring the farmland and reduces the ultimate loss. Agriculture potential productivity can be optimally increased. Remote sensing is a boon for farmers and a gift to agricultural practices.

Lidar is useful in GNSS-denied situations, such as nut and fruit orchards, where foliage blocks satellite signals to precision agriculture equipment or a driverless tractor. Lidar sensors can detect the edges of rows, so that farming equipment can continue moving until GNSS signal is reestablished.

Insects & Pest Monitoring

This one is still in R&D phase. LiDAR is now being used to monitor insects in the field. The use of Lidar can detect the movement and behavior of individual flying insects, with identification down to sex and species. In 2017 a patent application was published on this technology in the United States of America, Europe and China.

These are clear benefits in using LiDAR in the agricultural industry. LiDAR technology is one of the most advanced and most accurate technologies in the GIS system. Its uses cut across several industries with various professionals and especially in the agricultural sector. Even FGV Prodata Systems have been integrating LiDAR into one of its systems for JUPEM and FELDA, which proves its importance to the industry in Malaysia.