Florida citrus growers can find out how many trees live in their groves and, eventually, they may detect the health status of the trees; all by using drone technology.
Imaging from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can accurately detect and count citrus trees and spaces where trees have had to be removed in groves, said Yiannis Ampatzidis, a University of Florida assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering. This technique would save growers time, money and labor costs. It also lets growers know how many trees they must order from nurseries so they can replant.
The system also can be used to evaluate citrus varieties and rootstocks by detecting tree traits that citrus breeders would want to know about, Ampatzidis said. Those include traits that produce healthy and tasty fruit and a higher yield.
Eventually, researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) hope to use the UAV images to detect citrus tree traits that would lead to quicker diagnoses of heat stress and pest diseases, including the deadly citrus greening disease.
For the new research, Ampatzidis and his colleagues attached an imaging mechanism to a UAV, and it accurately detected citrus trees and gaps between trees in a grove in Hendry County, Florida.