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Drones
A panel of researchers discussed possible applications for UAS—unmanned aerial systems—at the recent American Peanut Research and Education Society (APRES) annual meeting in Albuquerque.

 

Ron Smith | Jul 19, 2017

The initial “gee whiz what a great idea” phase of unmanned aerial vehicle introduction has abated, somewhat, leaving the folks genuinely interested in using the technology for commercial endeavors now asking: “How will this amazing technology help me run my business?”

A panel of researchers discussed possible applications for UAS—unmanned aerial systems—at the recent American Peanut Research and Education Society (APRES) annual meeting in Albuquerque. Panelists Jamey Jacob, Oklahoma State University; Sarah Pelham, University of Georgia; Josh McGinty, Texas A&M AgriLife; and Maria Batola, Virginia Tech, agreed that unmanned aerial vehicles—drones—are capable of “taking pretty pictures,” but that extracting useful data from those images requires a bit of tedious work and ongoing study into how to collect and use data.

“Collecting data is a piece of cake,” Batola said. “We get beautiful pictures in 10 to 15 minutes, but it may take several hours to analyze the data from those images.”

And data, she said, is the reason to fly the drones. “Big data is a big deal. We want to develop phenotyping tools to aid plant breeders and to develop remote sensing tools to benefit agricultural producers.”

Batola says ag research has used ground unit remote sensing tools for years. “Now, we want to compare those with UAS.”

PRACTICAL APPLICATION

She said remote sensing studies at Virginia Tech have included efforts to estimate yields and to develop a nitrogen stability index. “We want to improve nitrogen management in wheat,” she said.

She’s looking at drought stress research in peanuts, evaluating various genotypes to observe wilting, yield and mature kernel potential, and crop values. “We want to find coefficients of correlation,” Batola said.

Pelham, a graduate student at the University of Georgia, is evaluating disease and phenotype relationships in peanuts “using unmanned aerial systems.” Tomato spotted wilt virus is a key disease target. She’s also looking at leaf spot and nematodes. “We want to use UAS to identify areas in the field with nematode infestations.”

She says different peanut genotypes show “different spectral signatures with different colors in the field.” Some varieties may be greener than others, for instance.

Drones also help evaluate stand count. “We can evaluate stands and determine a threshold for replant,” she said, “and we can determine where stands are thin and replant only those areas.”

Evaluating and predicting yield, she said, is another potential objective for UAS.

SYSTEMS EVOLVING

Jacob says making UAV technology an integral part of commerce has “a long way to go. The period of hype that comes with introduction of new technology does fade as some lose interest and some disillusionment sets in.” The task now, he said, is to find how to use UAS in a productive way.

The adoption will come, he added. “The current (younger) generation will be the last to get a driver’s license.” Driverless vehicles will become normal, he said. “Millennials, instead of having texting distract them from driving will think driving distracts them from texting.”

Agriculture, he added, will offer a big market for UAV use. “In Japan, UAVs have proven useful on small farms for spraying and other tasks.” Widespread use for more than imaging could be more problematic for large-scale farms. Potential uses include crop monitoring, chemical applications, and airborne imagery. But cost could be a factor. Manned aerial vehicles could, in some cases, be a better choice. Imagery would be takes from as high as 10,000 feet with a manned aircraft, he said. “UAVs have higher resolution, but do you need it? A lot depends on the cost and the crop value and what you need from the imagery.”

Jacob said UAVs will improve and find more uses. With normalized differentiated visual imagery (NVID) producers can identify areas of vegetation that are healthier than other areas. “We can get biomass estimations with added sensors and perhaps estimate crop yields. Plant diagnostic capabilities may improve to being capable of collecting data associated with a single plant.”

 He said automated weed databases will be configured to send data to automated ground vehicles that will target sprays.

REGULATORY ISSUES

Jacob says regulations continue to limit some uses. For instance, users currently have altitude limits and must keep the UAV in sight, which requires someone on the ground to monitor the vehicle. That could change in the future to allow a user to  monitor and control a unit from an office, collect data, process with a computer and take action from the information collected—without leaving the desk.

Challenges with that system include increased risk, insurance options and safety precautions.

He said technology is getting cheaper, but cost will be driven by the application and the size needed to perform certain tasks. A vehicle capable of spraying, for instance, would be heavier, and more expensive than a small rotor drone that mostly takes photos.

McGinty says in the future, UAS will be used to collect field data and use it for decisions or to evaluate research efforts. “We will collect and process data and determine what information will be useful and how best to use it. That’s the goal, but we’re not there yet.”

He’s using mostly rotor units for crop research evaluations, and fixed-wing for some pasture and rangeland studies. Fixed wing, he said, covers more area.

In research plots, he’s using drones to check plant growth, including plant height and canopy cover. Assessing plant health with NDVI is also a possibility. “We want to be able to use UAS data to predict yield,” he said. Drones are evaluating plant height and boll and bloom counts in cotton. “Boll counts have proven to be of less value than we anticipated,” he said. “But we are looking at different ways to use that data.”

He said looking at bloom counts may help identify stressed plants.

He’s also looking at sorghum. “We can collect images of sorghum panicles, but we have to count by hand. We want to automate that. But even having to do counts manually in the office is better than counting in the field in the heat and humidity of Corpus Christi.”

He said research on sorghum is in early stages. “We have only one year of data.

PROCESSING PROBLEMS

“Our biggest struggle so far is in sharing data,” McGinty said. “After collecting data, we may spend from eight to 12 hours processing it.” Going through a UAS Hub located at College Station streamlines the process.

The initial hype, Jacob says, has diminished. Regulations remain in place with the FAA still in control of drone flights, but rules are under review as more units are put in use and as technology improves control.

The key to making a drone a useful tool for agricultural research and for on-farm applications, the four researchers said, is to find ways to put the collected data to use in decision making. Data is the crucial factor, and the technology is not available yet to collect, process and use the information efficiently.

“Big data is essential for crop use,” Jacob said. “We can take pretty pictures, but we’re not to big data yet.”

 

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To see video go to:

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Cucumber green mottle mosaic virus could have entered Queensland through imported seeds – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

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Ccucumber green mottle virus could have entered Queensland through imported seeds

 

Posted 3 May 2017, 3:18pmWed 3 May 2017, 3:18pm

Biosecurity authorities are trying to figure out how a fruit and vegetable rotting disease broke out in Queensland, but have initial suspicions it was through imported seed.

Farmers from the Bundaberg region are angry cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV) has recently been discovered on five local properties, owned by two growers.

CGMMV causes internal rot and discolouration in some cucurbit family fruit and vegetables, and its discovery comes months after an outbreak of white spot disease decimated the aquaculture industry in south-east Queensland.

Biosecurity Queensland spokesman Mike Ashton said the virus was not harmful to humans, but could ravage parts of the agriculture industry if a widespread outbreak occurs.

He said there was a possibility the virus was brought onto the infected farms by imported seeds.

That is considering the businesses operate independently and do not share personnel and equipment.

“That kind of increases the risk that perhaps it was seed that was the source of the introduction,” he said.

“It’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever be able to pinpoint exactly how it got introduced.”

“We’re certainly doing tracing investigations to try and identify the source.”

Farmers like Gino Marcon are angry there has been an outbreak of another virus, and are switching to less risky crops.

Mr Marcon normally grows a wide range of vegetables on his farm, but this year, he is only growing tomatoes to avoid CGMMV.

“We’ve actually stopped growing cucumbers, we’ve sort of got a wait-and-see attitude at the moment,” Mr Marcon said.

“We’re a bit worried that the disease may affect our zucchini production, so we’ve switched over to 100 per cent tomato production in our greenhouses.”

He blamed biosecurity authorities for the outbreak.

“We’ve lost confidence in the system and that’s the biosecurity system,” Mr Marcon said.

“We think it’s not broken, it’s shredded to bits. It’s simply not working.

“I think the whole system needs to be overhauled, we’re not getting value for money for the money being allocated to biosecurity.

“[Politicians] need to look long and hard at the whole system and change it.”

Mr Ashton rejects the allegation that the system has failed.

“We have managed to restrict the disease to a very small number of properties in Queensland,” he said.

“Unlike the Northern Territory and increasingly so in Western Australia where the disease has become quite established.”

There have been previous outbreaks of CGMMV in the Territory and WA, and an isolated case at Charters Towers in North Queensland in 2015.

Biosecurity Queensland hope the Charters Towers farm will be declared clear of the virus later this year.

The Federal Agriculture Department introduced mandatory imported seed testing to try and combat CGMMV in 2014.

In a statement, the department said it uses a sample size more than four times the size (9,400 seeds) than that used internationally (2,000).

It said that gave a high level of confidence in the results.

Topics: pest-management, rural, quarantine, crop-harvesting, agricultural-policy, vegetables, activism-and-lobbying, agricultural-crops, fruit, fruits, bundaberg-4670, qld

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The FAO estimates that up to 40% of global crop yields are reduced each year due to the damage caused by pests (FAO, 2015). Crop losses have a huge impact on the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. They result in less food for them and their families and a lower income for spending on education and […]

via Pest Risk Information Service for sub-Saharan Africa — The Plantwise Blog

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New BlightCast foresees risk of aggressive blight

Potato growers will have a better opportunity to predict blight risks, and tailor their proactive fungicide programme to specific seasonal challenges this year.
The new Syngenta BlightCast, launching for the 2017 season next week, uses local weather forecasts and sophisticated disease modelling algorithms to predict blight risk for up to five days ahead – enabling growers and agronomists to plan strategies more effectively.
Now, BlightCast has included three prediction models: one for conventional Smith Periods; a New Criteria of blight development at lower temperatures and, new for 2017, a forecast using the Hutton Criteria proposed to model strains of blight capable of developing at shorter periods of90% relative humidity.
Syngenta Potato Technical Manager, Douglas Dyas, pointed out that websites or information systems that simply report historical data of weather conditions, when blight might have already infected, have a limited role in proactive disease management.
“With BlightCast you get a prediction of blight risks with the chance to select appropriate strategies to prevent infection,” he advised. “It has always been the most forward-thinking system, and has continued to improve to reflect developments in our understanding of this disease.”
Douglas recalled frequent reports in recent seasons of blight incidence occurring in crops, even when weather conditions had indicated no Smith Periods. BlightCast is designed to be better equipped to reflect in-field conditions, where temperatures and humidity within a dense irrigated crop canopy, for example, could be significantly more conducive to infection and development.
“An improved understanding of risk allows growers to target Revus timings to offer the best and longest protection from each application,” he advised.
“It also remains crucial to stay fully aware of blight risk when attention turns to Alternaria treatments,” advocated Douglas. “BlightCast can help ensure growers get the best performance from Amphore Plus and tank mix combinations of Amistar plus Revus or Shirlan.”
Application timing   
To further aid practical blight treatment programmes, BlightCast can also be used in combination with Syngenta Spray Window Forecast – which indicates potential opportunities for in-field application over the next seven days.
“In recent years many growers’ blight programmes have been severely disrupted by persistent strong winds or prolonged wet weather that has prevented application,” warned Syngenta Application Specialist, James Thomas.
“If the Spray Window Forecast sees problems arising, it can be the trigger to get preventative treatments on earlier, and better utilise the long-lasting effects of Revus if future treatments are delayed,” he advised.
James pointed out that the Spray Window Forecast also provides a guide of the timing to utilise low-drift nozzle technology to increase application opportunities in catchy conditions and get blight fungicides onto the crop.
“When conditions are difficult, the practical advantages of Revus’ low application rate to enable faster sprayer turnaround – and its unrivalled rainfastness to ensure protection is locked onto the leaf – is a real benefit for growers,” he added.
For more information:
Mark Britton
Syngenta
Tel: +44 01223 883400

Publication date: 4/21/2017

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U.K.: Drones to tackle fruit fly spread on soft fruit farms – FreshFruitPortal.com

April 10 , 2017

Scientists at Scotland’s University of Aberdeen are using drone technology to create a new monitoring system for the fruit fly Drosophila suzukii. 

The drones will detect the pests much earlier than traditional methods by flying over “sticky traps” where the fruit fly can be identified from the air. Imaging capturing and processing systems will be developed to automatically differentiate fruit flies from other pests.

Also known as Spotted Wing Drosophila, the fruit fly has become a serious threat to soft fruit growers since arriving in the U.K. from Europe in 2012. Over the last few years it has affected several crops including strawberries, raspberries and grapes.

The three-year drone project aims to hone in on early detection, altering growers so they can take swift action to prevent crop damage, and improve upon the current monitoring methods which are time-consuming and costly.

Dr David Green, from the University of Aberdeen, explains how the Drosophila suzukii spreads rapidly and early detection is key to containing the devastating pest which has been found on farms in England’s key soft fruit growing regions in the south-east and as far north as Dundee, Scotland.

“One of the main challenges of our work will be developing a method that automatically identifies the presence of the fly among other pests. Our Dutch partners at the University of Wageningen are specialists in image processing, and our aim is to develop an image-capturing and processing system that can recognise the fly and carry out an automatic count in order to determine the density of the infestation.

“Ultimately, our goal is to develop a system which has real value for soft fruit growers – many of whom operate on tight margins – that can help protect their livelihoods.”

The project is funded by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), also involves Dr Johannes Fahrentrapp at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland and Dr Lammert Kooistra the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands.

Photo: http://www.shutterstock.com

www.freshfruitportal.com

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As part of its mass extension activities for 2016, Plantwise Ghana rolled out a four-week  prevalent in the project’s five intervention regions in Ghana. The campaign, which took place between September and October 2016, involved five radio stations noted for […]

via Plantwise Ghana Educates Farmers on Major Crop Pest and Diseases — The Plantwise Blog

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