Drones Now Being Used to Monitor Health of Plants


 

Drones monitoring health of plants

Photo via Science Network WA

The many uses of drones have been well documented on this blog and across the Internet. From photography and surveying to delivering medical supplies and tracking the migratory patterns of wildlife in Africa, drones have helped transform many different industries and will continue to be a hot topic of conversation in the months, years, and decades ahead.

Recently, an article at Phys.org discussed a new use for drones that could reduce the amount of insecticides used by farmers. According to the article, drones have been used to diagnose the stress levels of plants, a key factor in their susceptibility to pest attacks. One of the most common stressors, according to one research scientist, is a potassium deficiency.

Using advanced imaging technology from a drone mounted with a multi-sensor camera, researchers have assessed the stress levels of plants in canola fields. By studying camera images and the wavelengths of light given off by the plants, researchers were able to identify areas in a field with the poorest plant growth. In the study, plants with a potassium deficiency “showed less biomass and much higher green peach aphid infestations.” Early detection of pests and disease in certain areas could allow for targeted insecticide applications, rather than a blanket use, according to the article. This will not only save farmers money, but will also result in “mitigation of insecticide resistance and promotion of beneficial predator insects in unsprayed areas of crop.”

According to the scientist cited in the article, the drone imaging technology has proved to be more accurate than satellite technology, but it is still too early to apply it on-farm.

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