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Intelligent fumigation for a more efficient use of pesticides
As the World's population grows, the amount of arable land available per capita is declining. According to predictions made by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), farmers will have to achieve, in 2050, a sustainable yield of their crops, of about 50 percent, to feed the World's population. For this equation to work in the future, agriculture will require crop protection and technical innovation. Both have to be as environmentally friendly as possible. For this to become a reality, Bosch and Bayer have joined forces. As part of a three-year research partnership, both companies will develop intelligent fumigation technology that will make pesticide use more efficient. "Smart spraying cleans weed from fields in a sustainable way. This protects yields while taking care of the environment, "he says. Markus Heyn is a member of Bosch's Board of Directors. The research concept will be presented at this year's Agritechnica Fair in Hanover (Germany).
Fumigation and savings
On farms, crops like corn and wheat compete with weeds for water, nutrients and a place in the sun. The result: poorer crops. In order to effectively combat these undesirable plants, the large-scale use of herbicides is usually the only remedy, although weeds do not always grow uniformly throughout the field. The result is that crops and fertile soils are also fumigated with pesticides, which are harmful to the environment.
"Together with Bosch, we want to open new paths combining different technologies. Our goal is for herbicides to only be used where they really are needed," says Tobias Menne, Director of Digital Agriculture at Bayer. Especially in the first phase of its growth, weeds are difficult to identify. Using camera sensors, the new intelligent fumigation technology is able to differentiate between crops and weeds, and uses a special technology to attack weeds with herbicides, thus reducing the environmental impact. "With intelligent spraying, we are bringing more 'intelligence' into the fields," says Johannes-Jörg Rüger, head of Bosch's Commercial and Off-Road Vehicles unit. What sets it apart in the market from earlier systems is that the latter only provide "green detection", but they can not distinguish between crops and weeds.
An "X" marks the spot
Here's how it works: Before farmers get to their fields, a digital "field manager" helps them to assess the situation in the field and recommends the best time to treat weeds. In a single pass, the weed is accurately identified and the herbicide is sprayed in a single process as the spraying machine crosses the field. Multiple cameras spread across the width of the spray tube are taking a continuous series of images, identifying the different weeds and allowing to define optimal treatment. As the machine moves through the field, the herbicide is sprayed into the required amount and mixture using the appropriate application parameters. While relevant weeds are identified and fumigated, weedless areas remain intact. All this happens at the speed of light, in a matter of milliseconds.
"Smart spraying is a qualitative leap in the fight against weeds," says Björn Kiepe, head of agronomy at Bayer's Digital Agriculture unit. "We are combining modern weed identification technology with the ability to apply different active substances according to each situation. This process is very precise, with a spatial resolution of less than one meter. This will make it even easier for farmers to practice sustainable crop protection." Most importantly, the system takes into account pretreatments, the interaction of different active substances and the best possible degree of effectiveness of the herbicides used to prevent weeds from developing resistance.
The main areas Bosch research focuses on are highly effective sensor technology, intelligent analysis procedures and the selective spray system. In collaboration with Bosch, Bayer is applying the expertise it has acquired in the field of geographic information systems (GIS) - including the development of algorithms as a basis for agronomic decisions - integrated crop protection, formulas technology and application.
Publication date: 9/15/2017
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