Tighter regulations and mounting resistance are changing crop protection options and application methods. When it comes to weed management, for example, technology is leading the charge to bring precision to control measures.
Look no further than technologies such as Blue River’s See and Spray, which John Deere acquired for $305 million, that combines machine learning and precision nozzle technologies. Other examples include Rantizo’s drone-based spray technology and emerging disruptive technologies, such as RootWave. Another example is BASF’s support of weeding robots by ecoRobotix, which uses artificial intelligence and a swarm bot concept.
“There are no clear winners yet,” says Melissa Johnson, formulation science and technology leader, crop protection product design and process R&D at Corteva Agriscience. “But it’s an exciting time to see how technologies are being deployed for agriculture and how it will make products more efficient and sustainable.”
Traditional sprayers use gravity to deliver droplets, and they rely on large amounts of water for a carrier, Johnson explains. A drone uses rotor wash to push droplets into the canopy and their payloads are drastically lower. That opens the conversation for targeted applications of higher concentrations of active ingredients.
“For a long time, we’ve talked about farming by the foot, but quickly, we are going to get to farming by the seed. When we get to edge computing and see-and-spray technologies, we’ll farm by the plant and make ongoing decisions all season,” says Mark Young, chief technology officer at The Climate Corporation.
Sensors, predictive models and machine learning provide intelligence on developing yield threats. With these tools, scouting will be more efficient and applications more targeted.
For example, BASF’s xarvio app, which was introduced this fall, bridges big data and science-based advice to help provide more informed scouting decisions.
“Precision application satisfies the needs for enhanced environmental safety and toxicological safety because it reduces the load you apply to a field,” say Marco Busch, head of weed control research with Bayer Crop Science. “But it also opens the possibilities to designing products specific to the weeds or conditions. So in the future, we may be talking about very targeted new chemistries for ‘driver weeds.’”
Busch also thinks crop protection will become more crop specific to offer distinct solutions.
In fall 2017, FMC acquired PrecisionPAC from DuPont, which is a custom-blend system for up to six active ingredients. The company has more than 400 machines at retail locations, with a focus on products for the cereals market. PrecisionPAC’s advantages include custom blends of active ingredients, custom volumes and blend details with time stamps.
“We have a number of development projects underway to bring this system’s capabilities to the soybean market with the Authority and Anthem herbicide brands,” explains Rick Ekins, application and innovations platform lead for FMC.
As for when all of these emerging technologies will hit farm fields, Johnson says it’s a matter of time.
“Change is coming quickly, but I’m not saying there won’t be a place for large sprayers still in fields five years from now,” she says.
To learn more about the technologies mentioned in this story, visit bit.ly/2IfahEg