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University of Bristol

Animals fake death for long periods to escape predators

1-Mar-2021 10:00 AM EST, by University of Bristolfavorite_border

Newswise: Animals fake death for long periods to escape predators

Nigel R. Franks

European antlion (Euroleon nostras) on its dorsal side playing dead.

Embargoed until 00.01hrs UK time on Wednesday 3 March 2021

Newswise — Many animals feign death to try to escape their predators, with some individuals in prey species remaining motionless, if in danger, for extended lengths of time.

Charles Darwin recorded a beetle that remained stationary for 23 minutes – however the University of Bristol has documented an individual antlion larvae pretending to be dead for an astonishing 61 minutes. Of equal importance, the amount of time that an individual remains motionless is not only long but unpredictable. This means that a predator will be unable to predict when a potential prey item will move again, attract attention, and become a meal.

Predators are hungry and cannot wait indefinitely. Similarly, prey may be losing opportunities to get on with their lives if they remain motionless for too long. Thus, death-feigning might best be thought of as part of a deadly game of hide and seek in which prey might gain most by feigning death if alternative victims are readily available.

The study, published today in science journal Biology Letters, involved evaluating the benefits of death-feigning in terms of a predator visiting small populations of conspicuous prey. Researchers used computer simulations that utilise the marginal value theorem, a classical model in optimization.

Lead author of the paper Professor Nigel R. Franks from the University of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “Imagine you are in a garden full of identical soft fruit bushes. You go to the first bush. Initially collecting and consuming fruit is fast and easy, but as you strip the bush finding more fruit gets harder and harder and more time consuming.

“At some stage, you should decide to go to another bush and begin again. You are greedy and you want to eat as many fruit as quickly as possible. The marginal value theorem would tell you how long to spend at each bush given that time will also be lost moving to the next bush.

“We use this approach to consider a small bird visiting patches of conspicuous antlion pits and show that antlion larvae that waste some of the predator’s time, by ‘playing dead’ if they are dropped, change the game significantly. In a sense, they encourage the predator to search elsewhere.”

The modelling suggests that antlion larvae would not gain significantly if they remained motionless for even longer than they actually do. This suggests that in this arms race between predators and prey, death-feigning has been prolonged to such an extent that it can hardly be bettered.

Professor Franks added: “Thus, playing dead is rather like a conjuring trick. Magicians distract an audience from seeing their sleights of hand by encouraging them to look elsewhere. Just so with the antlion larvae playing dead – the predator looks elsewhere. Playing dead seems to be a very good way to stay alive.”

Paper:

‘Hide-and-seek strategies and post-contact immobility’ by NR Franks, A Worley and AB Sendova-Franks in Biology Letters

Image:

European antlion (Euroleon nostras) on its dorsal side playing dead. Credit: Nigel R. Franks

https://fluff.bris.ac.uk/fluff/u1/hu21584/gouW2eLlMqxEzBsRwNZxGAzcJ/

Issued on Monday 1 March 2021 by University of Bristol Media and PR Team. For more information email press-office@bristol.ac.uk.

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New crop-destroying locust swarms hitting East Africa ‘nearly every day,’ UN warns in renewed call to fight major food security threat

United Nations | January 21, 2021

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Credit: AP
Credit: AP

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Dominique Burgeon, FAO’s [the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization] Director of Emergencies and Resilience, said the huge [African] desert locust swarms in 2020, some as wide as 60 kilometers, had not been seen in decades, threatening food security in a region where many were already going hungry. 

Surveillance and response led to 1.6 million hectares of land being treated.  As a result, more than three million tonnes of cereals, valued at approximately $940 million, were protected: enough to feed 21 million people for a year. 

“We can say that huge progress has been made, capacities of the countries have been tremendously augmented…but yet the situation is not over”, he told journalists. “We have made a huge effort, we are much better prepared, but we should not be complacent. We should not relax.”  

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With neighboring countries battling crop-ravaging locusts, Zimbabwe readies itself for potential outbreak

Sifelani Tsiko | Zimbabwe Herald | January 22, 2021

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Credit: National Geographic
Credit: National Geographic

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Shingirai Nyamutukwa, head of the [Zimbabwe] Plant Quarantine and Plant Protection Research Services Institute [January 17] said there was an alert following reports of a new round of locust outbreaks.

“Yes, it’s true that Namibia and Botswana are battling another wave of locust outbreaks. The locusts are in all stages from nymphs to adults. We’re keeping check on their control efforts so as to assess risks of invasion into Zimbabwe,” he said.

Last year, locust outbreaks in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia were controlled.

Heavy rains have created conducive conditions for swarms to breed in these countries, forcing plant protection agencies to take steps to control any outbreaks.

SADC and partner organisations like International Red Locust Control Organization for Central and Southern Africa (IRLCO-CSA) were working with the four countries to control the pest and protect people’s livelihoods.Follow the latest news and policy debates on agricultural biotech and biomedicine? Subscribe to our newsletter.SIGN UP

In Namibia and Botswana, the plant protection expert said, some other types of locusts are emerging besides the African migratory locust owing to the wet weather which create favorable factors for all these insects to multiply.

“With a lot of food available due to good rains, we expect the region to have a [difficult time fighting] locust outbreaks throughout the last half of the season,” Nyamutukwa said.

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East Africa gets ready for return of destructive locust swarms

In 2020, East Africa was struck by the worst locust plague in decades. Unfortunately, now, the swarms are returning.

The locusts invading East Africa last year ravaged crops and pastures and drove the levels of hunger and economic hardship higher in parts of the region. One year later, right at the start of 2021, the United Nations has warned that a second and maybe even deadlier return of locusts has already begun.

The first wave of the pests emerged at the end of 2019, numbering in hundreds of billions, multiplying by a factor of 20 per generation, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The second generation in March and April numbered in the trillions. A plague that spread like wildfire — up to now.

Image: FAO / DUS

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“It’s a continuation of the 2020 locusts swarm. The adults have flown to various areas and are laying eggs”, Frances Duncan, Professor of Animal, Plant & Environmental Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand, told DW. “If we have good rains like it is the case at the moment in most areas, the hoppers will hatch, and we get the second wave of the swarm.”

However, Keith Cressman, FAO’s Senior Locust Forecasting Officer, remains optimistic. “I think it’s still a very dangerous situation. But it should not be worse as it was last year.” According to the weather forecast, the months to come should be dry, reducing the locusts’ reproductive rate.

Publication date: Wed 6 Jan 2021

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EurekAlert

NEWS RELEASE 6-JAN-2021

Researchers discover how a bio-pesticide works against spider mites

TOKYO UNIVERSITY OF AGRICULTURE AND TECHNOLOGY

Research NewsSHARE PRINT E-MAILVolume 90% 

VIDEO: THE LARVA ROTATES IN THE SPHERICAL EGG TO CUT THE CHORION FOR HATCHING; 32× ACCELERATED. view more 

CREDIT: TAKESHI SUZUKI, TUAT. THIS WAS PUBLISHED IN ENG LIFE SCI. 2020;20:525-534

Scientists have uncovered why a food-ingredient-based pesticide made from safflower and cottonseed oils is effective against two-spotted spider mites that attack over a thousand species of plants while sparing the mites’ natural predators.

An international team of scientists has uncovered how a bio-pesticide works against spider mites while sparing their natural predators.

The findings, published in the journal Engineering in Life Sciences on October 7, 2020, could present farmers and gardeners with an eco-friendly alternative to synthetic pesticides.

Food ingredients have long been used as alternative pesticides against arthropod pests, such as insects, ticks, and mites, because they tend to be less toxic to mammals and pose less impact to the environment. The way bio-pesticides work – often through physical properties instead of chemical ones – also reduces the likelihood that the targeted pest will develop resistance to the pesticide, in turn reducing the need to use greater quantities of the pesticide or develop new ones.

One such bio-pesticide, made from safflower and cottonseed oils–which takes the brand name Suffoil–has been known to be effective against two-spotted spider mites (Tetranychus urticae), a species of arachnid that attacks more than 1,100 species of plants. Suffoil has no effect on another species of mite (Neoseiulus californicus) that naturally preys on the spider mite.

A spider mite normally hatches by cutting the eggshell, or “chorion,” with its appendages as it rotates in the egg. The rotation in turn helps it cut more of the chorion and eases hatching. The spider mite embryo also uses silk threads surrounding the eggs, woven by its parent to house the eggs on the underside of leaves, which may act as leverage to aid this rotation.

To understand how Suffoil works against spider mites, the researchers dipped spider mite eggs in Suffoil and examined them using powerful microscopes. They also used spider mite eggs dipped in water as a control group.

They found that Suffoil partly covered the surface of spider mite eggs and the surrounding silk threads. More importantly, they observed that the embryonic rotational movement essential for hatching was absent or stopped in the Suffoil-covered eggs. It appears that the oil seeps into the eggs through the cut chorion, making the inside too slick for the embryo to rotate, thus preventing the embryo from hatching properly.

“The bio-pesticide works by preventing the spider mite embryo from rotating within its eggshell for hatching,” said Takeshi Suzuki, a bio-engineer at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT) and senior author of the study.

“It may also weaken the toughness of silk threads and reduce the anchoring effect of the egg on the substrate,” said Suzuki.

The findings also offer an explanation as to why Suffoil has no effect on the spider mites’ natural predators – they don’t use rotation to hatch out of their eggs. This means that Suffoil may be used in conjunction with the spider mites’ natural predators.

###

Other contributors include Naoki Takeda, Ayumi Takata, Yuka Arai, Kazuhiro Sasaya, Shimpei Noyama and Noureldin Abuelfadl Ghazy, all affiliated with TUAT, Shigekazu Wakisaka at OAT Agrio Co., Ltd., and Dagmar Voigt at Technische Universität Dresden.

This work was supported by JSPS KAKENHI, Grant/Award Number: 18H02203; JSPS Invitational Fellowships for Research in Japan, Grant/Award Number: L19542; Equal Opportunities Support of the School of Science at the Technische Universität of Dresden, Germany

For more information about the Suzuki laboratory, please visit http://web.tuat.ac.jp/~tszk/

Original publication:

Naoki Takeda Ayumi Takata Yuka Arai Kazuhiro Sasaya Shimpei Noyama Shigekazu Wakisaka Noureldin Abuelfadl Ghazy Dagmar Voigt Takeshi Suzuki. A vegetable oil-based biopesticide with ovicidal activity against the two-spotted spider mite, Tetranychus urticae Koch. Eng Life Sci. 2020;20:525-534. https://doi.org/10.1002/elsc.202000042

About Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT):

TUAT is a distinguished university in Japan dedicated to science and technology. TUAT focuses on agriculture and engineering that form the foundation of industry, and promotes education and research fields that incorporate them. Boasting a history of over 140 years since our founding in 1874, TUAT continues to boldly take on new challenges and steadily promote fields. With high ethics, TUAT fulfills social responsibility in the capacity of transmitting science and technology information towards the construction of a sustainable society where both human beings and nature can thrive in a symbiotic relationship. For more information, please visit http://www.tuat.ac.jp/en/.

Contact:

Takeshi Suzuki, PhD
Associate Professor
Graduate School of Bio-Applications and Systems Engineering
Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT), Japan
tszk@cc.tuat.ac.jp

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Fightback starts against fall armyworm

Published Yesterday at 09:35 AM

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities
The Honourable Mark Furner

The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) has received approval to import a biopesticide for research purposes, marking a significant step in the fight to combat fall armyworm (FAW).

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities Mark Furner said the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) approval to import Fawligen® meant the Queensland Government could start working on management packages for impacted industries.

“Since the initial detection of FAW in Australia in January 2020, DAF has worked closely with industry to find ways to address the threat posed by this voracious invasive pest to Queensland’s agriculture industry,” Mr Furner said.

“Fawligen® is a biopesticide targeting the FAW caterpillar which ingests virus particles, becomes infected and dies, spreading the virus to other FAW larvae in the crop.

“DAF first applied in March 2020 to bring Fawligen®, which is produced in the US by Australian company AgBiTech, into Australia.

“Getting DAWE’s approval to import Fawligen®, a naturally occurring caterpillar virus which targets FAW, is a key step forward as it has the potential to be a game changer for producers.”

Mr Furner said having access to Fawligen® would allow DAF researchers to immediately commence small scale work with AgBiTech to assess its performance on FAW populations, under local conditions and in various crops. 

“This will generate information for an Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Authority (APVMA) regulatory submission,” Mr Furner said.

“Natural biological control agents, like Fawligen®, reduce grower reliance on conventional insecticides for FAW control, reducing the risk of insecticide resistance development.

“Another significant advantage of this biopesticide is that it only kills the FAW and is non-toxic to beneficial organisms including honeybees and beneficial natural enemies such as spiders, wasps and ladybeetles.”

AgBiTech’s General Manager for Australia, Philip Armytage, said in response to the spread and rise of FAW as a global pest, in 2015 AgBiTech established a production facility in the US to manufacture Fawligen® for Brazil and other global markets.

“At the time, Fawligen® could not be produced in Australia as the FAW was not present,” Mr Armytage said.

“Globally, Fawligen® is AgBiTech’s biggest product by volume, and we are excited to be able to bring our technology back home to Australia for our farmers.

“We will accelerate the project, working closely with DAF and use all our international experience to support the commencement of the registration work as soon as possible.”

Mr Furner said DAF had a long history of working closely with AgBiTech in supporting the development of the Helicoverpa biocontrol ViVUS Max® in the early 2000s. 

“Australia is the global leader in the use of native and introduced biocontrol agents,” he said.

“We have seen excellent results in the control of similar caterpillar pests such as Helicoverpa as well as with silverleaf whitefly and prickly pear.

“In the meantime, growers should remain vigilant for the presence of FAW and check for the latest insecticide permits applying to fall armyworm using the APVMA’s permit portal.”

The latest advice about the impacts and management of fall armyworm on key crops can be found on the fall armyworm web page at business.qld.gov.au/fallarmyworm.

ENDS

Minister Furner media contact:                   Ron Goodman            0427 781 920

AgBiTech / Fawligen media contact:         Philip Armytage          0488 263585

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Cedar fight goes across fence and state lines

TAGS: CONSERVATIONLIVESTOCKCurt ArensA few members of the Bristow, Neb. area crew pose in front of the trucks they purchased to help on prescribed burnsCRUCIAL CREW: A few members of the Bristow, Neb., area crew pose in front of the trucks they bought to help on prescribed burns. Over the past eight years, this group has burned more than 30,000 acres in their fight to reclaim grasslands from invasive eastern red cedar.Working together has been a successful formula for Nebraska and South Dakota advocates of prescribed fire.

Curt Arens | Dec 23, 2020

Gathering landowners to work together on prescribed burn projects has been a winning model in the successful defeat of eastern red cedar encroachment on grazing lands. Normally, prescribed burn associations work across fence lines with neighboring landowners.

Over the past decade, eastern members of the Niobrara Valley Prescribed Fire Association, covering much of north-central Nebraska, have not only reached across fence lines, but also state lines into neighboring South Dakota, to beat the invasion of ERC.

Related: New strategy in battle against invasive cedars

It started in 2010 when Jerald Dennis, Bristow, Neb., sheared ERC trees in a large portion of family-owned grasslands on the south shore of Lake Francis Case in South Dakota, behind Fort Randall Dam. He piled the dead cedar trees for curing. In 2011, Dennis deferred grazing on the tract, to grow fuel for the prescribed burn he was planning the following spring.

“It took an entire year to plan the burn, coordinating between five landowners, four government agencies along with local law enforcement and fire departments,” Dennis explains. On that burn with Dennis, Dave Steffen from Gregory, S.D., and other interested landowners in the area watched as observers.

Dennis has worked at Nebraska State Bank in Bristow for nearly 40 years. Most of that time, he has also served on the Bristow Fire Department. His family owns about 2,000 acres of pasture in both states, so he’s been involved in prescribed burning for the past 13 years. The Prescribed Fire Association that Dennis works with has conducted burns on just over 30,000 acres since 2012.

They normally develop their burn schedule at a meeting each February, so 10 to 12 people can plan to be involved with each burn. The local members of the association bought two Army surplus pickup trucks to transport skid water pumping units with 250-gallon tanks, hoses and a reel they borrow from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

The burn near Fort Randall encompassed 3,145 acres. “We had a well-seasoned crew of 12 from Nebraska working that burn,” Dennis says. “It also helped that we had Lake Francis Case to the north and a highway to the south.”

Steffen watched the Nebraska crew and became interested in conducting more prescribed burns locally. “The following year, Steffen and a few other interested parties came down from South Dakota and attended our local meeting, and a few controlled burns,” Dennis says. “We collaborated on burns in South Dakota by helping that group develop burn plans and assisting with the burns. Our motivation was to teach their group how to safely conduct controlled burns, so they could teach others in the state.”

In 2017, the South Dakota group formed its own Mid-Missouri River Prescribed Burn Association —the first in the state — with Steffen and several neighbors as driving forces in the effort.

“Cedar trees were just beginning to become a problem,” Steffen recalls. “I looked at maps that showed the encroachment problems, especially big bunches along the Missouri River.”  The aerial maps showed about one-third of Gregory County with cedar tree problems. “Thanks to funds from the South Dakota Grasslands Coalition, we sent out a questionnaire, asking landowners about cedars on their land, and if they would consider prescribed fire as a control.”

Jerald DennisA prescribed burnLIGHTING IT UP:  Two years before the actual burn near Fort Randall Dam in South Dakota, Jerald Dennis sheared several large cedar trees and pushed them up against mature live trees. In 2012, when they started their prescribed burn in that area, the sheared trees ignited easily and burned into the live trees.

Steffen says that working with the Nebraska group helped their association in South Dakota organize and conduct burns of its own.

“We’ve had burns in the hundreds of acres so far, mostly in Gregory County, but also in Charles Mix County. That included a couple of big ranches,” Steffen says. “In many cases, nonresident landowners contact us about conducting a burn on their property. In most cases, we like it when landowners participate in the burn themselves, but with some nonresidents, we accept a payment for doing the burns.”

The Mid-Missouri River group now covers four counties, including Gregory, Charles Mix, Brule and Lyman.

“From the prescribed burns, we have witnessed tremendous recovery of warm-season native grasses on those grasslands where there was grazing management to go along with it,” Steffen says. “There has been fantastic recovery to a typical native plant community in the rough hills and breaks of the Missouri River.”

Cedar treesDEAD TIMBER:  At specific heights, cedar trees do not stand a chance against a well-run prescribed burn. Most of the trees pictured here are completed destroyed. Grass recovery in an area like this is surprisingly rapid.

Steffen says that landowners are amazed with the amount of new grass growth there has been within a year’s time. “Keep in mind, we’ve had plenty of rain in recent years to grow grass, so we have been above normal in soil moisture,” he adds.

For the group based in Bristow, fire has been a worthwhile tool in their war against ERC for more than a decade. “We add new, younger members to our group every year,” Dennis says. “Most of them are members of the fire department, so they are comfortable with conducting a burn. We all work together, and it is great knowing that the other guys have got your back.”

Learn more about Nebraska prescribed fire associations at the state’s Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever website, nebraskapf.com. Learn about the Mid-Missouri River Prescribed Burn Association of South Dakota online at midmissouririverpba.com.RELATEDYoung farmers get involved in ag groupsNovember 17, 2020Landowners band together to confront eastern red cedarJune 22, 2020

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Management of Fall Armyworm: The IPM Innovation Lab Approach

https://ipmil.cired.vt.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/IPM-IL-FAW-Management.pdf.

By:

Sara Hendery

Communications Coordinator

Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management

Hendery, Sara saraeh91@vt.edu

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New strategy in battle against invasive cedars

TAGS: RANCHINGCurt ArensControlled burn in field

FIRE IT UP: Prescribed fire is one of the most comprehensive tools available to farmers and ranchers in their battle against invasive eastern red cedar. Fire does especially well when control measures are first employed on smaller trees located on intact grasslands, and then working back into mature stands.Start with intact grasslands, and work on controlling small cedars first.

Curt Arens | Dec 15, 2020

What if we’ve been going about reclaiming grazing lands from encroachment of invasive eastern red cedar trees all wrong? There is no denying the issue.

Between 2005 and 2015, cedar seedlings in Nebraska doubled to nearly 275 million. The Nebraska Forest Service estimates that 333,134 forest acres in cedar in 2015 amounts to about 22% of the state’s forested area.https://b710577702287762840fb1d33fc50ac6.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Thanks to mechanical removal and other means, the spread has slowed since 2009, and the state’s cedar forest declined by 30,000 acres between 2013 and 2015. However, the problem remains monumental, and the state’s rangeland and livestock producers are negatively affected if the problem isn’t controlled.

At a series of recent workshops sponsored in part by the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition, Nebraska Cattlemen and the Sandhills Task Force, Nebraska rangeland ecologist Dirac Twidwell told producers that our strategy so far is flawed.

Rather than dumping endless resources into the worst areas of encroachment, and trying to tackle large cedar trees and clear vast areas, Twidwell suggested trying something new. He believes that the best and most efficient use of resources is to start in areas of rangeland where cedar trees are just beginning to invade, clearing those areas first, and then working back into the worst spots.

Starting with grasslands

“This strategy is more effective when people consider the ecology of encroachment, which starts with the reproduction pathway,” Twidwell explained. “Spread into grasslands comes from a seed source, and 95% of cedar encroachment in the Nebraska Sandhills occurred within 200 yards of a seed source.”

If producers manage cedars by only cutting mature, reproducing trees, then landowners can never catch up to seed distribution. “That means that they have to come back to cut again in the future,” Twidwell said. “Manage the seed, prevent seedlings from becoming mature and anchor efforts to healthy grasslands.”

After that battle is won, then push back against the more mature stands, he added.

“Multiple management options have the potential to manage the encroachment process,” Twidwell said. “There is no silver bullet. But only fire has the potential to manage all phases of encroachment at once, because fire consumes seed, kills seedlings and can kill mature trees and larger stands.”

At a low cost of only $5 to $10 per acre, no other tool at a landowner’s disposal has the potential to do all four things at once like fire.

The best success stories in winning the battle against encroachment have been where landowners have banded together to use prescribed fire to burn grasslands before cedar trees become a visible problem. “These areas have been shown to be more capable of preventing grassland loss,” Twidwell added.

“Woody encroachment is a national rangeland problem, and it is taking land out of agricultural production,” he noted. “It shows we have weakness in our management, and it is tied to trees.”

Intact rangelands are most resilient to woody encroachment, but to prevent the expansion and loss of intact grasslands, new seed-producing trees must be prevented.

“The Great Plains still has some of the most intact grasslands remaining on the planet,” Twidwell said. “The Sandhills produced more than 30 billion pounds of total grass production last year.”

But no state or region has fixed the cedar problem once encroachment has taken over, he said. “Don’t wait to act,” Twidwell said. “You can’t control the problem just on your own property. We are seeing the need to band together and to scale up and think bigger. The areas where we see landowners cooperating and working together are the areas in the Great Plains where we are seeing the greatest success.”

Learn more by contacting Twidwell at dirac.twidwell@unl.edu.

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Robotic weed removal eliminates need for expensive hand crews

TAGS: TECHNOLOGYTodd FitchetteFarmWise weederSingle-

Single-line organic cauliflower is weeded with a robot developed and operated by the Salinas-based FarmWise.FarmWise offers a business model that provides weeding services, freeing the grower from having to own and maintain a machine.

Todd Fitchette | Dec 04, 2020

Produce growers in Arizona and California are being introduced to the futuristic world of George Jetson as robots and artificial intelligence replace labor crews used to rogue weeds from lettuce, cauliflower, and other vegetable crops.

Salinas, Calif.-based FarmWise is a service company with a robotic weeding machine capable of rouging weeds at speeds of one-to-two miles per hour. This eliminates the need for expensive hand crews or chemical herbicides.

The FarmWise weeding machine is part of a service FarmWise provides. Unlike some companies that sell the machines, FarmWise offers a business model that provides weeding services, freeing the grower from having to own and maintain a machine.

The Titan FT35 is the third generation of machines developed by FarmWise. Company Chief Executive Officer Sebastien Boyer said testing on previous generations of machine took place over the past several years. The newest generation of machine is being used commercially in California and Arizona. https://c8c1c3523498a4e6800111cf107f6155.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

The machine uses artificial intelligence to learn the various crops by studying the plant structure, according to Sal Espinoza, regional manager with FarmWise. Once the computer successfully learns the stem structure of the produce plant, the ability to cull weeds is simple. This process can take a few months of machine learning to get it right, Boyer said.

The machines can be outfitted with as many as six weeders. These are the rows of internal components that contain the metal knives that cut through the soil and rogue weeds as cameras track the vegetation and the AI of the onboard computer determines whether the plants are the planted produce, or weeds.

Boyer said his long-term goal is to find additional ways to mechanize the manual labor and tedious tasks performed by human hands. Through the machine learning the AI can distinguish cauliflower, celery, broccoli, and cabbage. Other crops including tomatoes and pepper are being perfected.

The company’s current business model is focused on providing services to produce growers in the desert region of southern California and Arizona after an inaugural run in the Salinas Valley. Boyer said he is also looking at European markets to expand his machine weeding technology.

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