The sugarcane industry could be next on the list to utilise drones for improved farm production.
Canegrowers Environmental and Natural Resources manager, Matt Kealley, said the potential of the technology was exciting.
It may be early days but Mr Kealley said he had visited a handful of growers trialling drones and the initial results were promising.
“One of the things they are using them for is looking at how well the plants are going and whether the plants are healthy or they are under stress,” Mr Kealley said.
“They do that by creating a map using normalised difference vegetation index [NDVI] technology … effectively that is a technical term to look at the colour of the plants when they absorb or reflect radiation.”
By gathering that information, Mr Kealley said the growers were able to work with their local agronomist and then consider how on-farm operations may need to change.
“You can actually drill down in to your soil to get better production, so this just adds another layer of data and information on what is going on in the crop,” he said.
“By using the drone, you are actually over the top of the crop, so you are seeing it from a bird’s eye view, which you do not normally see from the ground.”
Aside from farm management, he believed drones would also help detect crop health issues, such as yellow canopy syndrome.
I think there will be some opportunity to see how can it be applied to our industry, particularly around precision ag.Matt Kealley, Canegrowers Environmental and Natural Resources Manager
Regulations around the use of drones on-farm will change this year and farmers will no longer need approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to fly drones on their own land.
Mr Kealley expected that move to push more growers towards considering the use of the technology.
“I think the regulations changing allows the technology to be used more widely and growers can start to access that information and technology for themselves,” he said.
Funding research around the use of drones in the sugarcane sector could also be a possibility.
“I think it is probably on the cards … I think there will be some opportunity to see how can it be applied to our industry, particularly around precision ag,” Mr Kealley said.
Source – ABC