Drones could make crop research 10 times more efficient

Every farmer doesn’t need to own and operate a drone for UAV technology to have a positive impact on their farm.

That’s the message Scott Ditschun shares with farmers when he discusses how Bayer CropScience is employing drones in its agronomic and product research. He says UAV technology could effectively increase Bayer’s field research efficiency by a factor of 10.

At the company’s annual Dead Weeds Tour, Ditschun, an agronomic development representative focussing on seed treatments and foliar fungicides, explained how drones can greatly enhance field trial research that’s traditionally been carried out by human scouts.

Drones give Bayer researchers the ability to calculate corn stand counts, gather biomass index and NDVI ratings as well as measure plant height and canopy volume.

“This drone can basically take the human element out of these trials,” says Ditschun noting the flying machine’s ability to calculate corn stand counts, gather biomass index and NDVI ratings as well as measure plant height and canopy volume.

“It can go through a one-acre field in about five minutes and take six measurements where it would take two of my students about an hour to do one measurement,” says Ditschun. It’s allowing us to take a lot more data, and gather it at a fraction of the time.”

The fully loaded DJI S1000 drone, which comes with GPS, high resolution and sensor cameras, and software from aerial robots partner Precision Silver, costs about $30,000.

Ditschun acknowledges that this type of investment doesn’t make sense for a farmer, but companies like Bayer have the ability to integrate the technology into their research program and produce benefits that impact crop production.

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Ditchun is excited about the ability of drone research to give his company more and better agronomic information to provide enhanced management advice to its customers. For example, he notes that drone research could greatly increase Bayer’s ability to provide growers agronomic management advice for a product like metribuzin herbicide, which is sensitive to some soybean varieties.

“Because we are increasing the efficiency by a factor of 10, we could in theory do 10 times more varieties or 10 times more repeated trials across different soil types,” says Ditschun. “That would be really important for a product like metribuzin, which is impacted by soil conditions and soil type.

 

 

Bernard Tobin

Bernard Tobin is Real Agriculture's Ontario Field Editor. AgBern was raised on a dairy farm near St. John's, Newfoundland. For the past two decades, he has specialized in agricultural communications. A Ryerson University journalism grad, he kicked off his career with a seven-year stint as Managing Editor and Field Editor for Farm and Country magazine. He has received six Canadian Farm Writers' Federation awards for journalism excellence. He's also worked for two of Canada's leading agricultural communications firms, providing public relations, branding and strategic marketing. Bern also works for Guelph-based Synthesis Agri-Food Network and talks the Real Dirt on Farming.

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