Precision herbicide moves toward commercialisation

Precision farming technology that will allow reduced herbicide use by accurately identifying and spot-spraying weeds, developed from research funded by the Horticultural Development Company (HDC), is to go into commercial production.

The prototype device combines an innovative image analysis-based system for identifying a variety of weeds in row crops, coupled with a choice of two precision spraying modules to directly apply herbicide either to single spots or to small patches of weeds.

The technology is based on evidence from HDC project FV 307a, entitled ‘Reducing herbicide use in row crops with targeted application methods treating detected weeds in small patches or spots’.

“We looked at how combining new spray technologies with vision guidance techniques can deliver targeted application of selective or total herbicides,” explained lead researcher, Dr Paul Miller of Silsoe Spray Applications Unit.

“The results showed high precision for spot application to weeds in onions, leeks and sugar beet—an advance on an earlier technique pioneered to develop spot application of glyphosate to volunteer potatoes in onions and carrots.”

Speaking on behalf of Garford Farm Machinery, which is to commercialise the technology, Philip Garford said: “Results from field experiments have showed that this technology has great potential to benefit field vegetable growers. We are pleased to be working with the research team to develop the device into a commercially viable product.”

Leek grower Patrick Allpress of Allpress Farms added: “Growers are always under pressure to reduce chemical use, so we welcome the development of this device that could eliminate the need for broadcast herbicide application.”

The HDC funds projects to support the commercial development and sustainability of horticultural crop sectors.

HDC Knowledge Transfer Manager, Rosie Atwood, said: “Providing value for money for levy payers is at the heart of everything we do. We’re excited that this research has led to the commercial development of a practical, useful tool that will not only cut costs for field vegetable growers while maintaining effective weed control, but will also reduce the impact of chemicals on the environment.”

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