How can technology help the farm life?

Research from the University of Tennessee explained that the use of low-budget drones may improve the crops’ productivity

How can technology help the farm life?

Technology is invading every aspect of daily life. The way people communicate, work, and even establishing relationships are being facilitated by the new tools. However, in Latin America there seems to be the idea that the new inventions shouldn’t be part of the countryside way of living.

According to a recent research from the University of Tennessee in United States, the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, can help farmers determine if their crop is growing satisfactorily.

The university explained that with the help of this equipment, farmers can routinely assess plant populations early in the growing season to determine their state.

The investigation

The researchers assessed cotton fields manually and through images obtained from both digital and multi-spectral cameras mounted beneath a quad-copter. The digital camera is a common element used in drones, while the multispectral is a professional element much expensive. The drone was flown at various altitudes ranging from 30 to 120 meters. The study was conducted at three locations in Italy and United States and was presented during the International American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) 2017 Annual Meeting in Tampa, Florida.

The study showed that images produced from the multi-spectral camera proved to be more accurate in estimating plant populations, with a 93% accuracy. However, researchers say the red, green, and blue (RGB) images produced by the less-expensive digital camera still looked promising, with 85% accuracy using current methods and scripted programming.

People can buy drones in Amazon. Their price can oscillate from $20 to $200 US dollars; it depends on the quality of the camera.

The use of these elements can reduce the management of the crops. Shawn Butler, researcher of the study, stated that the "traditional approach is reliant upon a highly uniform plant population across the entire field and can be influenced by human bias (...) an aerial approach could provide spatially dense information on plant populations across large areas quickly and remove human bias".

Butler assured that "based on initial results, the aerial imagery provided by either RGB or multi-spectral sensors may be a sufficient tool to improve accuracy and efficiency of plant stand assessment".

Tayson Raper, the project leader and assistant professor in the University of Tennessee, explained that "crop monitoring is a big obstacle for many producers (...) we want to continue to evaluate tools and methodologies that have the potential to help farmers overcome monitoring challenges, improve response time and increase profitability".

Latin American Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

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