Across Regions, Cultivation/Production, Equipment/Technology, North America, Smart Farming, Trends

‘Farmers’ new best friends’: Drones and their role in modern, sustainable agriculture

Did you know about the new world of drones that help produce each bite of your meal? The July 22nd Sustainable, Secure Food Blog looks at how drones are being used in crop science.

According to blogger Filipe Matias, drone advancements and lower costs have helped drones become more common in the daily activities of crop science research. They can replace the hard work of walking through fields, taking measurements, and identifying problems. They help scientists accelerate discoveries and reduce labor costs to create more nutritious, high-yielding, and flavorful crops.

The sun emits radiation, which is called the “electromagnetic spectrum.” This includes the visible light that we see and also microwaves, near infrared waves, x-ray, and gamma-rays. We can “see” different parts of the spectrum by attaching specific sensors to drones, just like wearing night vision goggles to detect the heat of people hiding in the woods. By using sensors and drones, we can 1) distinguish plants from their surroundings and 2) capture images of the inner workings of crops.

Just like you can tell that a person is looking pale and green in the face if they are sick, we can use drones to measure the health of plants. We can use drones and sensors to scan a field for the presence of crop diseases or low crop productivity.

Even more impressive, a map of the location of unhealthy plants can be built to then guide a spraying drone so that pesticides or fertilizers can be applied specifically and directly to disease-stricken plants. Research in crop science includes discovering which sensors and parts of the electromagnetic spectrum are useful for measuring plant health and even to distinguish specific crop diseases.

Telling different species of plants apart by eye is no easy feat. But we can use drones to distinguish weeds from crops. We can find weeds because different plant species use the energy from the Sun’s electromagnetic spectrum in different ways. Those differences can be detected using the sensors on drones.

Once weeds are detected, spraying drones now can be used to eliminate weeds in the field with targeted herbicide application. This targeted spraying is sustainable, reducing herbicide use, labor costs, human health, and environmental impacts.

In the future, drones could be used more and more by farmers and scientists to make people’s lives easier. With the reducing costs of drones, sensors, and tools to use the data, they will become more accessible worldwide. Drones are used to help make decisions to produce what you are eating.

Visit this page to read more about the research findings and the entire blog.

Source: The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) and Crop Science Society of America (CSSA)
Photo: Credit Image by liu xiaozhong from Pixabay

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse


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