Drones for precision pest control in agriculture
Farmworkers of the future could be piloting drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, according to a new review article led by Elvira De Lange, postdoctoral researcher at University of California Davis.
Drones are already being used in Brazil to control pests in huge fields of sugarcane or soybeans, said coauthor Fernando lost Filho of the University of São Paulo. They are of particular use in Integrated Pest Management programs, which use “biological control,” releasing natural predators or parasites to attack pest species.
De Lange works in the laboratory of Professor Christian Nansen in the UC Davis Department of Entomology. Nansen is interested in using remote sensing to measure the health of crop plants, among other things.
Drones equipped with remote sensing technology could patrol fields for signs of pest infestation then target them by delivering a hit squad of biological control agents, like miniature paratroopers, or highly targeted delivery of pesticides.
UC researchers are also exploring drones to assess the need for fertilizer application in rice fields, and this quarter the UC Davis Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering launched a new class, “Introduction to Unmanned Aerial Systems for Agriculture and Environmental Science.” Drone use on campus remains strictly regulated and requires approval by Safety Services.