Precision Ag Event Highlights Use of Drones in Ag

8/16/2014 7:00 AM
By Amber Bullock Delmarva Correspondent

QUEENSTOWN, Md. — Hundreds of farmers, researchers and university staff attended the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Precision Agriculture Equipment Day on Wednesday, Aug. 6, at the University of Maryland’s Wye Research and Education Center to learn from the nation’s top experts on agricultural equipment and machinery engineering.

The event is hosted by University of Maryland Extension in collaboration with Extension programs at Virginia Tech, West Virginia University, Penn State and University of Delaware.

The location this year, Wye Research and Education Center, is new for Precision Agriculture Equipment Day, which has been held at the Caroline County 4-H Park for the past four years.

One of the highlights of the event was the demonstration of various drone systems used to monitor crop health.

Dr. John Nowatzki of North Dakota State University, presented data from the first ever unmanned aerial systems tests in agriculture that began in May.

“Our research team at NDSU is at the cutting edge being that we are one of only six sites selected to perform the first agricultural tests of the various aerial systems,” Nowatski said.

Nowatski’s research entails using the aerial systems to see if they can spot nitrogen deficiency, iron deficiency chlorosis and other crop ailments from the air, even if it is before they are visible from the ground.

The drones used in his research are also used to help identify weeds and take photos, which are then imported into a software program used to analyze the images.

Other speakers at the equipment event included Tom Eberle, founder and CEO of Airlytics, who focused on drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, and Tim Woodward of Tellus Agronomics LLC, who shared a live-feed video demo of the AgriEye Multicopter Drone.

Jennifer Rhodes, agriculture and natural resources Extension agent for University of Maryland in Queen Anne’s County, said, “The goal of the event is to educate farmers about precision agriculture.”

“Our hope is to broaden their horizons as to what else is going on in the technology realm, what other farmers are using and how they can enhance their own farming practices with the use of precision agriculture,” Rhodes said.

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