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University and industry partners demonstrate biostimulants applied to wheat using drones

Posted 28 February

“Use of drones to spray micronutrients and biostimulants on crops is another important tool in the move towards Precision Farming in the UK."

The Drone Team at The National Centre for Precision Farming (NCPF), at Harper Adams University, UAV specialists Crop Angel and Drone Ag, and a biotechnology company are investigating the benefits of using spray drone systems in agriculture.

The consortium, working with AminoA Biostimulants, a UK biotechnology company specialising in developing amino-acid based plant biostimulants, worked in partnership to apply their product using a drone on a wheat crop in the East of England.

Richard Phillips, MD of AminoA Biostimulants, said: “We are delighted to be working with the team and providing product for UK crop trials, looking at the effectiveness of low volume applications by drone technology. We fully support the YEN yield enhancement programme and are attempting to maintain and increase crop yields whilst reducing the environmental impact of current farming practice, in line with planned legislation.”

In early 2019 the team applied biostimultants to a crop of winter wheat over four hectares. The crop will be taken through to yield and analysis will be conducted by YEN as part of the yield enhancement group. Results will the monitored throughout and the harvest will be weighed. Imagery will be taken at regular intervals, advanced software will look for changes that could lead to enhanced resistance to crop stress.

Chris Eglington, co-owner of Crop Angel, said: “We made a number of ‘fine tuning’ adjustments - water volumes, height, bout width, flight speed and nozzle size to suit weather conditions and make the best use of the batteries, while chosen water volumes and product application rates should remain constant some of the other parameters are almost certainly likely to be altered on follow-up applications.”

Debbie Heeks, engineering researcher at Harper Adams, said: “Use of drones to spray micronutrients and biostimulants on crops is another important tool in the move towards Precision Farming in the UK. The drone team at the university have been actively working with Agricultural Drone companies, farmers and the HSE to make this project possible.

"This tripartite collaboration with a leading UAV company and a specialist biotechnology company is the start of an exciting partnership to evaluate the use of drones to spray nutrients on a range crops across the country. The development of this technology is another tool to realise precision farming for arable farmers in this country."
Whilst the application of micronutrients and biostimultants may not require specific permissions from the Health and Safety Executive, the application of Plant Protection Products are subject to CRD approval.

Jack Wrangham, Director of Drone Ag, said: 'It's great to see the team finally putting drone spraying technology to use here in the UK, this will be the first in a number trials that will hopefully show the benefits of this technology in a number of areas.”

A workshop presenting information regarding training and pre-requisites in the use of spray drone systems will be available in Autumn 2019 at three sites across the UK. For more information, email ncpf@harper-adams.ac.uk.

Crop Angel and DroneAG are members of the NCPF’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Special Interest Group, professionals who promote and practise safe operations of drone systems in agriculture. The members support a conference hosted by Harper Adams University, being held this year on April 9. For more information on the group and the conference, email dheeks@harper-adams.ac.uk.

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