Development of a New Application System for the Rapid Dosing of Crop Protection Chemistries.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Abstract

Chemically selective herbicides traditionally used to control weeds in agriculture are becoming less effective due to a build-up of resistance [1]. In horticulture, there are fewer herbicides available due to the relative small scale of production compared to other crops (eg. cereals) [2], this project intends to provide a weed control method for a selection of different crops, with initial investigations into horticultural crops such as lettuce. An increase in regulatory controls has also led to the loss of some herbicides, and the slower development of new chemicals across the industry [3]. This has resulted in some farmers relying on expensive hand-weeding to manage weed populations [2], this project attempts to provide an alternative method of weed control.

The project aims to develop an original method for the precise application of active ingredients for crop protection and nutrition. This includes the application of traditional products such as herbicides to weeds and nutrients and fungicides to crops. It will therefore allow a significant reduction in the volume of formulation used when compared traditional field spraying [4], reducing the environmental impact and cost of chemical spraying in agriculture.

The system will be capable of being mounted on conventional farming equipment or an autonomous vehicle as desired. A main objective of the project is to produce a system capable of moving through the growing area at higher speeds (in excess of 5km/h) and weed density than precision application systems currently available or proposed [5], [6]. The project also aims to develop a system which can accurately target individual plants with a low (but sufficient) quantity of formulation to reduce the volume of required. Through this research we should be able to provide a physically selective application system that is a viable alternative to current farming practices.

The initial research will show consideration for both the state-of-the-art in the field and how technology outside of the norm for the industry may be adapted for use in this project. This will be utilised to provide a design concept for the system including the physical applicator type, sensors and control methods required to provide sufficiently fast actuation and application and precise targeting of the formulation onto plants. Further to this a prototype system will be produced and tested over a range of speeds and weed densities with data collected on the capability of the system to accurately target plants including where targets are correctly found, where they are missed and where plants are incorrectly targeted (eg. Herbicide applied to crop). The amount of formulation used will also be analysed to ensure it is sufficient to provide the appropriate response in the plant, but not excessive to ensure minimal environmental impact. The system will also be tested over a range of different crops to establish its adaptability to different plant types.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/R513131/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2023
2106090 Studentship EP/R513131/1 13/09/2018 31/03/2022 Lydia Elstone