Risk Management Technology: Drones in Agriculture?
Article by Evan Lentz
Drones have had a long-standing history in the both the military and hobbyist circles. Recently, there has been a resurgence of drones into general consumer markets which has stimulated an interest in their utility in a range of applications. As such, it should be no surprise that drones have found their way into the world of agriculture. At this year’s annual USDA iPiPE Summit, four undergraduate students from Rutgers University presented their findings on three separate summer long studies, each demonstrating an application for the use of drones in agriculture. All four students work under the guidance of Dr. Peter Oudemans and focused on small fruit crops such as blueberries and cranberries. Below you will find a synopsis of each of the studies and a link to their full findings.
Use of Drone Imaging for Assessing Weed Control and Disease Pressure in Highbush Blueberry
- This study was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of drone imagery for weed detection in highbush blueberry crops.
- Multiple sensor types can be utilized with drones to detect and monitor weed growth effectively.
- The drone technology can cover more ground faster than any of the other weed detection methods tested.
Use of Drone Imaging for Detecting Fairy Ring Disease in New Jersey Cranberry Beds
- This study was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of drone imagery for fairy ring detection in New Jersey Cranberry beds. Another goal for this study was determining the smallest recognizable fairy ring detectable with the technology.
- The drones provided viable, reliable, and highly cost-effective means to assess the degree of fairy ring growth inside cranberry beds.
- The system is especially cost-effective when compared to the cost of other available options, namely, helicopter flights and satellite images.
- Shows promise for detection and monitoring of other diseases as well.
Use of Drone Imaging for Detecting Stem Blight in Highbush Blueberries
- This study was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of drone imagery for detecting potential causes of yield loss in highbush blueberry crops. The imagery captured was analyzed for unusual patterns within the rows.
- Autonomous flight planning and image software allow the drones to cove large areas quickly and produce high resolution maps
- RGB sensors on the drones can be utilized to detect problematic areas within the field. Other sensors provided a more defined classification.
Although these three drone applications were specific to small fruit crops, the results show that these methods may prove useful in detecting and monitoring pests and diseases in a range of other crop groups. For more information on the studies themselves, follow the links to the full study presentations at http://ed.ipipe.org/publications. Special thanks to USDA iPiPE and the students who conducted the research: D. Jones, D. Nuhn, M. Mars, and J. Armitage.