Crop Tech Corner

Laying the Groundwork for Remote Weed Scouting

Emily Unglesbee
By  Emily Unglesbee , DTN Staff Reporter
Connect with Emily:
NDSU researchers are laying the groundwork for the remote scouting of weeds using electronic sensors. (DTN photo by Nick Scalise)

ST. LOUIS (DTN) -- This bi-monthly column condenses the latest news in the field of crop technology, research and products.

ELECTRONIC WEED SCOUTING

In another step toward a future of remote scouting, North Dakota State University researchers launched a project this summer to learn how to use electronic sensors to identify weed infestations in crop fields. According to a university news release, the researchers are teaming up with Sentera, a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) company that will supply hardware and software to allow NDSU to collect and process the necessary data and images.

The project has several layers. First, researchers will measure the light reflectance, intensity and color of weeds grown both in university greenhouses and outdoor field trials using a hand-held radio spectrometer and color, thermal and infrared sensors. The researchers will then also use commercial sensors -- such as would be used on a UAV -- to collect the same data from the same greenhouse and field weeds (with a focus on kochia, wild buckwheat, green foxtail, wild oats and Canada thistle). The results of the hand-held spectrometer and the data from the commercial sensors will be compared, correlated, and then published for any business or farmer to use. At the same time, researchers will hit the fields to officially identify the weeds, and then use cameras and sensors to fine-tune the accuracy of identifying weed images digitally.

The hope is that the results of the project will provide growers and companies the data they need to make remote weed scouting an accurate and efficient reality and improve weed control, said John Nowatzki, NDSU Extension ag machine systems specialist and lead investigator on the project. "Earlier herbicide application results in reduced weed competition with the growing crops and correlates with higher yields," he said in the news release.

For more information on the project and where you can find the results, see the NDSU news release here: http://bit.ly/….

BEAN COUNTING APP

Kansas State University researchers have produced and released an Android app that quickly calculates soybean yield estimates for growers who are sizing up their fields before harvest. According to a university news release, the app simply takes the math out of the users' hands. Growers input four pieces of information for each field: plant population (the number of plants in a 21-inch row length in 30-inch row spacing, multiplied by 10,000), the average pods per plant (again gathered from a 21-inch row length), seed per pods (the app will accept any number from 1 to 4), and seed size. Seed size can be trickier to determine, but Kansas State University crop production specialist Ignacio Ciampitti said sizes typically range from 2,400 to 3,200 seeds per pound. Good growing conditions are likely to generate larger seeds (and smaller seed size per pound numbers), whereas growers with stressed plants should input higher numbers to reflect the likely smaller seeds, Ciampitti said. The app, which was written by Tania Bandyopadhyay, a graduate student in K-State's Department of Computing and Information Sciences, is available here: http://bit.ly/…. For more information, see the KSU news release here: http://bit.ly/….

BACTERIA WATERPROOF ROOTS

Bacteria continue to enhance their reputation as a plant's best friend. New research from the scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Dundee in the UK shows that beneficial soil bacteria can form a protecting coating on plant roots that both repels water and protects them from other harmful microbes. According to a University of Edinburgh news release, the scientists studied the soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis and discovered that it produces a waterproof film to protect itself as it colonizes plant roots. The scientists hope that understanding how bacteria do this will allow them to improve the process and produce more disease and water-resistant plants. "The ability to control the creation of a water-repellent film has many possible applications," University of Edinburgh scientist Cait MacPhee noted in the release.

For more information on the discovery, see the news release here: http://bit.ly/… and the published study here: http://bit.ly/….

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at emily.unglesbee@dtn.com

Follow Emily Unglesbee on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee

(PS/AG)

Emily Unglesbee