Chile | Biological control
A software for a drone that releases natural enemies of pests in crop fields, created
The innovation allows to reduce the costs of the processes and increase the efficiency, allowing the aerial vehicle to not be manipulated by a person.9/8/2021
Pest management is one of the most complex challenges for Chilean farmers, as they must comply with very strict quarantine requirements and, at the same time, conventional phytosanitary products are increasingly restricted. Therefore, when the scenario begins to have certain difficulties, innovation is key. This was considered by a team from INIA Chile, which thanks to the support of the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA), today they already have in practice the software that allows to release natural enemies of pests in orchards and crops by means of UAV or drones, giving greater speed and decrease in expenses to the sector.
“When a drone flies in manual mode, the operator determines, through the flight console, the height, the speed and where the discharges will take place. That is not ideal since the visibility of the person driving the drone is limited. That is why we seek that the drone can work in an "intelligent" way, that is, that it knows what it has to do even before taking off, thanks to a previous work that consists of monitoring that divides the field into cells, where it is established whether the presence of the pest is high, medium or low. That information is transferred to the software we create and there the drone flight plan is made. Then the only thing the team does is take off and follow the flight instructions received from the program. Without anyone manipulating it, it stands at a certain height and speed to stop in certain places and release more or less biological controllers that affect the orchard or field ”, explains the executor in charge of the project, Luis Devotto.
It is important to mention that a biological controller, according to the manual "Biological pest control system using drones" hosted on Opia.cl, "implies the use of natural enemies as an essential component in an integrated pest management scheme, and can only be used or in combination with other control methods. In a broad sense, a natural enemy is an organism that causes the death or deterioration of another organism considered a pest. The objective of all biological control programs in forestry and agriculture is to reduce the impacts of pests below acceptable thresholds ”.
In general, there are three types of biological control: conservation, inoculative and flooding. The latter is the one chosen in this innovation since it allows to repeatedly breed, multiply and release (through the drone and software) natural enemies of a pest, generally in large quantities in the same place, increasing the impact they have on the environment several times. plague.
The insects used in biological control are divided into two categories; predators and parasitoids; in this case, a representative was taken from each category.
The drone carries biodegradable spheres that are designed to release two types of beneficial insects. The first corresponds to a micro wasp (Trichogramma sp.) That is used to destroy moth eggs in corn, asparagus, apple and vine, among other crops. The second biological controller are larvae of the predator Chrysoperla sp., Which eliminates aphids, spider mites, thrips and whiteflies on strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes and citrus fruits.
Direct beneficiaries are not restricted to large companies as is often the case with state-of-the-art technologies, since by being able to cover more area in less time, service providers can serve many small farms on the same day, including Family Farming Farmer (AFC), since the drone moves easily between neighboring or nearby properties, allowing there to be a reduction in production costs and efficiency.
Along these lines, the executive director of the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA), Álvaro Eyzaguirre, maintains that “the technology and use of data applied to the most important species in fruit growing and horticulture in the regions from Valparaíso to Los Lagos, is fundamental for the development of a sector that every day presents more challenges in the management of pests that permeates the quality of our products for internal and external consumption. We know that Agriculture 4.0 is what is coming so as FIA we will continue supporting projects that allow us to provide competitive advantages to our agriculture ”.
On the other hand, Devotto says that in order to reach this result after three years of work, they made multiple comparisons, such as timing the time it took for the drone and a person on foot to cover the same surface of land, "and obviously the drone ended long before the person in the orchard, and also that difference was increasing during the day as people get tired and the team does not suffer from this problem. Basically it is mechanizing, like when you have to remove weeds and it is done with a group of people, versus a tractor, it is known that the machine will do it faster and cheaper ”.
Devotto adds that "progress is great since these biological controllers generally come in cardboard boxes separated by wheat husk or bran, so the manual work is to spread the insects in the field. The most common scheme is that the person it enters a row, advances a number of steps and releases at one point, then counts the same number of steps and releases again, until the entire surface is covered. It is understood why then doing it by air has such obvious advantages ".
Currently the application is online, free of charge. It is compatible with the two most used operating systems, such as iOS and Android. As for the software, it is linked to Google Earth, so the user experience is very similar to what you see when you use that program.
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