Drone technology could hold the key

ADVANCEMENTS in drone technology could hold the key to affordably combating the State’s wild radish herbicide resistance issues.

That was the message from Planfarm consultant and Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (AHRI) leader of communications Peter Newman, who presented at the Society of Precision Agriculture Australia (SPAA) Corrigin Precision Agriculture Expo last Thursday.

Peter Newman.

Peter Newman.

Mr Newman has more than 20 years’ experience researching wild radish management and was one of last year’s recipients of the Council of Grain Grower Organisation’s (COGGO) Piper Award.

He is using funding through the award to explore the possibility of using drone technology to pinpoint green weeds in green crops to patch spray.

Mr Newman said although the State had made significant progress in tackling wild radish problems, Western Australian growers were still spending thousands of dollars managing the weed.

“We’ve still got wild radish but we’ve just got it in a few plants per metre, or even in some cases a few plants per hectare and the last few wild radish are costing us a fortune,” Mr Newman said.

“It occurred to me that we’ve beaten this weed in terms of numbers, but the last few are really resistant so how can we mop up these last few and save farmers money while fixing a resistant weed problem?

“It led me down the line of using drones and patch spraying to see if we could do it.” 

The dream – according to Mr Newman – is to fly a drone over an entire cropping program within one day, taking images to pinpoint the exact location of the weeds.

From there, a prescription map would be manufactured and weed-affected patches sprayed with the required herbicide.

“We’ll turn up, fly it (drone), we’ll crunch the data and then give you a prescription map a day or two later and you can go out with your existing machinery and save yourself time and money.”