An automated spot herbicide ejector which will ‘point and shoot’ metered droplets to individual weed leaves in row crops is being developed.
Part-funded by AHDB Horticulture, the research project, known as ‘eyespot’ involves an ejector which will use an imaging system to distinguish weeds in field vegetable crops and evaluate the dose required to kill them at different growth stages. Herbicide droplets will then be accurately targeted to the leaves of the unwanted plants, according to AHDB.
The project has been developed in response to concerns about loss of herbicides and pressure to target pesticides better and in lower doses. The technology will precisely apply herbicide only to the weeds in such a way as to eliminate drift and spatter, while minimising likelihood of run-off to soil and non-target organisms, including the crop, it adds.
Field trials with savoy cabbages took place in summer 2016. Manually applied droplets of glyphosate achieved 92 per cent weed control and significantly higher yields than a conventionally applied pre-emergence herbicide, pendimethalin, says AHDB.
Dr Alistair Murdoch, University of Reading, who is leading the research project, says: “This is a pioneering project, as we are exploring a combined engineering and chemical solution to weed control in field vegetables.
“By accurately targeting leaf-specific droplet applications, it is the ultimate in precision agriculture. The importance of the successful findings of the project cannot be over-stressed and it is, therefore, particularly important that systemic, broad-spectrum active ingredients such as glyphosate remain available to farmers and growers.”
An automated vision-guided droplet application system should be ready for preliminary field trials in 2018, according to AHDB.