Farms & Farm Machinery - - SPECIAL FEATURE: PRECISION AG -

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

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