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How can we spray vineyards/orchards more efficiently and environmentally-friendly?

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Juran Feb 19, 2021
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Necessity

Is the problem still unsolved?

Conciseness

Is it concisely described?

Introduction

If you look at the spraying methods of vineyards demonstrated in the header image and the video, you can see that something is wrong.
The amount of the pesticide/fertilizer that just flies away and never reaches the targeted plant is enormous. It often goes and sprays the neighbours "eco vineyard" which surprisingly, resists all diseases "without spraying" :) Not only that it pollutes the environment, but it's also a waste of sometimes really expensive spraying material.

The best spraying methods I found are presented in the videos here and here.

Questions

But can we do better?
How could we spray the tree-form plants and lower the environmental pollution and at the same time save the material = reduce the costs?

Assumption is that people need to spray the vineyards and fruit because the sorts are non-resistant to common diseases and environmental factors. Please, avoid suggestions like "don't spray them".
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Creative contributions

Drones, but for photography and insights on crop health

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salemandreus
salemandreus Jun 24, 2021
Aerobotics is a company that helps farmers gain insights into their crops to identify diseased trees.

In this case the drones are not sent out for spraying but to photograph the entire area and use machine learning to identify diseased or unhealthy trees and also make predictions about crop yield.

This makes managing crops far more efficient in showing which areas need to be prioritised for special care.

Since your scouting drone/s would be used simply for taking pictures and would be lightweight, you wouldn't have to worry about carrying spray and arranging other logistics associated with spraying until you've gotten the insights. You wouldn't even need any preparation to send the drone out, it could check whenever you want. The needs for each crop would likely differ for each farmer depending on weather and climate, soil and other conditions, so farmers will find different solutions work for them depending on these factors and possibly even year to year. The solutions you devise - whether to then invest in an actual drone for spraying or whether you can economically manage your crop yourself and with labour and traditional machinery- can thus be properly informed by the insights gained from the drones. If you're able to scan your whole crop you'd not only be able to avoid ordering excess spray or overprepare the necessary logistics "just in case" , but in keeping vision over the crop changes on a near-daily or weekly basis would also be better able keep the crop healthy overall through earlier interventions at the slightest sign of a problem, which would inevitably be far less expensive.
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Juran4 months ago
Whoa! Thank you salemandreus for the hint. Aerobotics company does amazing stuff and it could be easily implemented in "special care". It sounds like personalized medicine for plants. Not all trees require the same treatment nor they require the same amount of food and water.

Before I even read the whole contribution, I was thinking the same thing. After the scout flight, farmers could decide to implement drone-assisted spraying of specific plants or to go fully mechanic with the usual roaring engines. That way we could combine traditional and novel techniques, yielding the maximum profit., since it would help to save time and material.

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Agricultural drones

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Feb 20, 2021
These agricultural spraying drones seem pretty efficient. The wind from the rotors helps focus the spray directly onto the plants. They are fully programmable and can resume where they left off after recharging.
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Juran8 months ago
Thank you Darko Savic, that seems cool!
The worth of the material saved could be bigger than the electricity bill for the drone charging, too, which is good.

Unfortunately, I must agree with Arnas Sepetys. The bigger the tank is, the stronger the drone needs to be. That could significantly raise the expenses and we have an economical problem then. Now people need a tractor/pump (that is used for many other purposes), a solution tank, and a spraying material. In the case of drones, along with the spraying material, people need completely new technology: drones, charging stations, tank-filling machines, and that is really expensive (unless the state jumps-in).
Who would use an approach that is more expensive, but more eco-friendly? Definitely fewer people than if the approach is cheaper and more eco-friendly.

One solution could be to develop drones that can carry small ultra-light self-retracting pipes. That would require additional control of flying routes when multiple drones are used, but it could work.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic8 months ago
Juran One of these drones costs a few thousand euros. With mass adoption and competition, the prices would go down further. Some of the tractors that serious farmers use cost in the range of 100-250 thousand. A farmer's electronics-savvy kid can build such a drone (https://youtu.be/Dh0G20lNHMI) while they can't build the tractor.

I think the future is in automation/robotics/AI. I guess in the long run it will come down to which machine uses the least amount of battery to do the same job.
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Arnas Sepetys8 months ago
Have you seen the size of spray solution tank on the drone? Not practical at all.

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Dripping systems

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Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain Feb 21, 2021
Drip irrigation is already a widely used method to irrigate farmlands. Basically, the drip systems mean that each individual plant gets the water delivered to their roots, all the while drastically minimizing the loss/wastage of water. For fertilizers and pesticides that can be delivered as liquids, we can adopt a similar system where the fertilizer is fed into the dripping pipes and delivered to the plants; avoiding any loss that occurs in the case of overhead spraying. For more effective control of the system, we can use sensors/ automatically operable valves that turn themselves off when a certain amount of fertilizer/pesticide is let out to the plants. The modular design of the drip irrigation system means that in case of any need for damage/malfunctioning, we need not shut the whole system, rather detach the problematic part and investigate what went wrong.
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Juran8 months ago
Hi Subash Chapagain! Thank You for the contribution!

I heard about these kinds of systems, but they were primarily used for irrigation. It's perfect for water and fertilizers delivery since minimal losses and maximum controllability is available. But we have a bigger problem with pesticides.

Spraying is an agricultural application of compounds that in most cases protect the plants from environmental threats. They can be pesticides, single chemical elements/compounds, ecologically acceptable herbal extracts, or something similar, but are always (as much as I know) water-soluble. Why application directly to the leaf? Because pesticides target either insects' metabolism (insects are found on leaves, branches) or produce a thin protective layer that stops fungi or bacteria growth and infection.

That's why it is very important to apply this kind of protection directly to the leaf or branch and the irrigation could not work.


Example: One of the biggest threats to the vineyard is the grapevine fungus Plasmopara viticola, which caused the devastation of thousands of European vineyards. After the zoospores are splashed by rain, they infect plants through stomata (leaf pores). The best practice to protect vineyards is the application of copper/sulfur-based agents that produce a thin protective coating/film. Since the coating is easily washed away from the leaves by the rain, a new dose must be applied according to the weather forecast. If there would be an irrigation method of protecting the plants from this pathogen, it would have to be based on a different mechanism of protection, since the plant cannot intake the protectant from the soil that fast, compared to the leaf application.
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More genetically modified plants

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 17, 2021
Let's take grapevine for example. Could a variety be engineered that can defend itself against every bug or pathogen known to frequently attack it?

That would be something.
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