CASE STUDY 2: USING A DRONE TO MANAGE HERBICIDE RESISTANT WEED PATCHES
Crop and livestock farmer Mark Branson, of Branson Farms in Stockport, South Australia, has added a drone to his precision agriculture toolbox, specifically targeting patches of herbicide-resistant weeds. Branson has chosen to use a
DJI Phantom 4 (four-rotor/quadcopter) with its standard high-resolution digital camera to monitor weeds during the crop season.
Early in the crop growth Branson is able to assess the weed pressure in a paddock using images that show individual plants that are 3cm in diameter or wider, growing between the crop rows. He can use these images to generate a variable rate technology map so he can target the surviving weeds with more expensive herbicides.
Once the canopy closes over, Branson uses the drone to spot weeds that are growing above the crop. Wild oats is of particular concern and seedheads can be seen very clearly in the drone images. Depending on the area of infestation, he will either bale the affected area for hay or consider spraying out larger areas of the crop as a last resort to prevent the weeds from setting seed.
Branson flies the drone himself, following a flight path that provides even coverage of the paddock. He then uploads the images to a cloud-based service provider. The images are ‘stitched’ together and a digital data map is returned to him, which he can upload to his tractor’s GPS monitor.
The same maps can then be used the following season to increase the seeding rate in the weedy areas to increase early crop competition to apply pressure to new germinations of weeds.
Rather than analysing the images himself, Branson has purchased a subscription to ‘Drone Deploy’ services. This subscription service provides more accurate maps than the free service and saves him a considerable amount of time.
To use the cloud-based service requires access to NBN wireless or equivalent internet upload speeds.
In addition to using the drone to manage weeds, Branson has also found value in spotting mistakes or misses after spreading urea or seeding. Early detection means there is more opportunity to correct any mistakes.
Above: Crop and livestock farmer Mark Branson has chosen to use a DJI Phantom 4 with its standard highresolution digital camera to monitor weeds during the crop season