Commercial drones to lead the fight against blackgrass

If you are taking the time to read this article, you are likely aware of the problems that blackgrass presents to UK arable farmers. With common populations of 200 to 400 blackgrass plants per square metre, yield penalties are severe! But, did you know how data gathered by drones is helping with the control of this dreaded weed?

Traditional methods used to detect the existence of blackgrass involves the walking of fields and marking of detection points on a plan of the field. This method is still common practice for many farming companies, and whilst it has been used to reasonably good effect for many years, there are a few obvious downsides and risks:

  1. Very time intensive to collect enough data to be meaningful
  2. Heavy reliance on the judgement of the person surveying the crop
  3. High probability of missing areas of blackgrass presence

To address these issues, farmers and agronomists are now including drone hardware and dedicated, agriculture-specific software solutions as an additional crop analysis tool. But why is this?

Modern drone technology is capable of surveying literally every inch of hundreds of hectares in just a few hours. Whilst the drone is flying its pre-defined flight plan, its on-board camera is automatically capturing hundreds of high-resolution images which then get processed to create a highly detailed map of the field. It is this map that the clever analysis tools then get to work on to provide extremely useful insights to the farmer and their agronomist. Now, whilst there are a number of different crop analyses available to an agriculture professional, this article is focussing specifically on how drone technology will lead the fight against blackgrass. So, what is the answer we hear you ask.

Well, the answer to this question is in the development of a clever piece of software which analyses the processed map with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning technology to enable its differentiation between what is crop and what is not. Areas that are analysed as ‘not crop’ are then highlighted on the map as areas of potential weed stress.

Interested? Well there’s more!

Because every single drone image used to build the field map are georeferenced, each area highlighted as having signs of weed stress are displayed in their precise locations within the field. As an extension of this, the analysis also records the weed stress as a percentage of the total mapped area, and also the physical area over which weed stress is identified. Where the analysis becomes really useful is in its ability to integrate with farm management software programmes for deeper analysis, reporting, and creation of outputs like variable rate prescriptions.

The commercial drone industry is expecting to see continued growth in the adoption of the technology within various areas of Agriculture, and with powerful tools like those mentioned in this article, it’s clear to see why.

RAWview are experts in the planning, procurement, and installation of commercial drone technologies for Agriculture professionals. Our team of experts work with you to provide a true, end-to-end service to make your entry to drone use as smooth as possible.

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