SCI Agrisciences Group has been discussing development in the application of precision agriculture technologies, especially directed at crop protection. Precision agriculture uses information and communications, engineering and selection support systems to lessen the variety in farming operations. The pursuits are to growth productiveness and profitability, and to lessen environmental effect.
The improvement of precision agriculture began within the mid-Nineties due to the huge scale availability of Global Positioning System (GPS) services added from satellites. The first packages have been yield mapping with combine harvesters and soil nutrient mapping, leading to phosphate and potassium fertiliser utility according to the spatial variability in a discipline.
This turned into accompanied with the aid of imaging of developing plants main to variable application of nitrogen fertiliser. Sensors are used to file the pix from seen band and close to infra-purple cameras on satellites, plane, drones or from tractor-based totally gadgets. Soil structure mapping is likewise completed using electric powered conductivity gadget, which may be used to operate spatially variable sowing costs. Automatic tractor steering systems the usage of GPS are actually broadly followed inside the UK.
Most of the traits in precision agriculture have, so far, been carried out to crops together with cereals and oilseed rape in Europe, in addition to maize and soya beans in North America. However, there are potential opportunities in vines and in orchards. Commercial adoption of precision agriculture in crop protection is exceptionally restricted. Some offerings are provided to farmers and some of initiatives are currently underway that could widen opportunities.
Some latest developments
The incidence of blackgrass (Alopecurus myosuroides) in wintry weather wheat within the UK, that is increasingly proof against herbicides, has precipitated interest in mapping the prevalence of this weed in the area, permitting the patch spraying of high priced herbicides. The quality time to accumulate pictures of blackgrass is before harvest, although which means the first possibility to variably observe herbicides is in the following crop. The eyeWeed challenge, co-funded through Innovate UK and concerning the University of Reading and several commercial collaborators, has looked at the detection of blackgrass in cereals at a much earlier level of the crop the usage of cameras installed on ground-based farm equipment (especially sprayers). A prototype sprayer so as to permit ‘real time’ herbicide software is now being evaluated.
Potato cyst nematodes (Globodera spp.) are an important economic pest in potatoes in components of the UK and manipulate measures with granular nematicides are very costly. By taking soil samples and recording egg counts, it’s far feasible to draw-up maps showing the variety in infestations and some agronomy corporations in the UK offer such offerings. However, the first remedial motion by patch utility can best be operated whilst the following potato crop is planted within the same subject, which may need to be several years later.
Another technology underneath development is the software of hyperspectral imaging. Using special sensors, it’s miles possible to file differences inside the spectrum of meditated light from the leaves of vegetation. These variations relate to the fluorescence of chlorophyll and the presence of zeaxanthin, and can indicate variations in the health of the crop and the extent to which it is laid low with drought or disease-associated strain. Specialist groups in the USA offer services, basically for research functions, primarily based on hyperspectral sensors. There has been a few proof that foliar sickness incidence can even be detected earlier than it’s miles seen to the human eye.
A undertaking currently underway, related to the University of Cambridge and commercial collaborators, Blightsense, is aiming to broaden a speedy acoustic biosensor device for in-discipline identification of air-borne spores of Phytophthora infestans, the causative agent of potato blight.
The wider utility of precision agriculture in crop protection will depend largely on the technical performance and monetary viability of those evolving sensor technology.