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Crop protection

Robots may eventually help kill weeds that impede strawberry yield

Think of University of Florida scientists Nathan Boyd and Arnold Schumann a bit like surgeons. Except, in this case, their operating room is a strawberry field.

With their research, Boyd and Schumann hope to eventually help growers unleash surgical strikes on weeds – without vanquishing their fruit. Additionally, robots may replace tractors as the means for delivering the spray in the field. Getting rid of weeds is critical for growers in Florida’s $300 million-a-year strawberry industry because weeds hinder fruit yield.

To conduct their studies, the UF/IFAS researchers mount a smart spray system to a tractor-pulled sprayer, which uses the highly targeted process to spray only weeds. So far, they’re killing up to 90% of the weeds. Precise spraying depends on many factors, including the types of weeds that scientists target and the speed of the tractor that sprays the weeds, said Boyd, a UF/IFAS associate professor of horticultural sciences.

A tractor operator pulls the machine that UF/IFAS scientists are using to try to get rid only of unwanted weeds – and avoid spraying strawberries – as they spray the plasticulture fields at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center. Photo courtesy, Nathan Boyd, UF/IFAS

Together, Boyd and Schumann – a professor of soil and water sciences at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred – are using artificial intelligence to detect and identify weeds within a crop canopy. The technology also can do the reverse: detect the canopy and spray everything else.

Precision crop protection
Boyd and his team trained AI programs to scan for weeds in the images collected by a camera. Once detected, a computer sends a signal to the spray system to spray the herbicide only on the weeds.

“This is done while moving through the field on a tractor, so you have to be able to detect weeds and hit a moving target,” Boyd said. No easy task, but it’s worth it. Boyd’s team is also working to improve spray precision at higher tractor speeds.

While the research remains in the preliminary stages, Boyd wants to reduce the amount of herbicide spray strawberry growers use. That saves farmers money and helps cut unwanted chemicals from getting into the environment.

Asked for cost-savings estimates, Boyd gave this example: If you shoot low and anticipate a grower using an inexpensive herbicide that costs $30 per acre and you drop the amount of spray by 50%, you save $15 per acre.

“That doesn’t sound like much, but if you have 100 acres, that is $1,500,” Boyd said. “Then add in the costs of the number of times you have to refill the herbicide tank that you’ll need in order to spray the whole field, the labor for the driver who refills the tank and mixes the herbicide, and the numbers start to add up.”

Boyd presented his early findings on precision herbicide spraying on strawberry plasticulture during last month’s Florida Ag Tech conference, hosted virtually at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee.

“If you use a tractor-pulled sprayer, our technology will reduce fuel consumption by reducing the number of times you need to drive back to your spray facility to fill your tank and mix the herbicide,” he said. “If you are using a lot less spray, it also means you can use a smaller tank and therefore a smaller tractor with lower fuel consumption. That is just the beginning, though.”

“Our ultimate goal is to integrate this technology into autonomous robots, so you don’t need the tractor driver anymore, and the robots are all solar-powered or run by electricity,” Boyd said. “We are trying to get the funding to achieve this last step.”

For more information:
UF/IFAS
www.ifas.ufl.edu

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Crop protection

Greenhouse ginger has a stronger flavor than imported ginger

In Belgium, CRU is now offering prime fresh ginger on its markets. It is grown locally and sustainably. It is also cultivated pesticide-free and with a minimum of organic fertilizers. The ginger has a stronger flavor than imported ginger.

Also, its carbon footprint is kept as low as possible. This prime ginger is the result of sustainable innovation. Colruyt Group initiated that in cooperation with the REO cooperative and the Provincial Experimental Centre for Vegetable Production.

 

As a retailer, the Colruyt Group is becoming increasingly aware of food’s impact on people’s health and the planet. It is constantly working on making its products more sustainable. Then its customers can deliberately make sustainable choices.

In this context, Colruyt Group and its collaborators launched this pilot project to grow fresh prime ginger in Belgium. This is a project of the Colruyt Group’s food innovation team for CRU. The ginger’s environmental footprint is reduced thanks to its local, sustainable cultivation.

 

Local, sustainable farming
This ginger is grown in a greenhouse at the Provincial Vegetable Research Center. Two REO cooperative growers also cultivate it under a non-heated plastic tunnel and greenhouse, also non-heated. The ginger was planted in mid-May and is harvested in the fall.

 

The growers used a minimal amount of organic fertilizer and no pesticides during cultivation. Growing locally reduces CO2 emissions, as shorter trips are needed to get the product to end-users. This ginger goes from the field to Belgian plates. This product usually comes from Asia and South America, increasing its carbon footprint.

 

Fresh, top-quality ginger
The Belgian is harvested when the plant’s foliage is still green, so it has no chance to harden or form a skin. That gives the ginger a distinct aroma and flavor. It is very juicy with no fiber and is fresher than the imported versions.

These tubers are uprooted and washed and can be eaten right away. This top-quality ginger has a limited shelf life. This pilot project’s first crop has both good quality and yield – so it was a success. Scaling it up and further sustainability is, therefore, being evaluated.

 

Exclusive to CRU
People can now buy this high-quality Belgian ginger for a short while at CRU’s three fresh markets in the country. Then it’s back to waiting for the next harvest. So, CRU clients are the first to get the opportunity to taste this local product.

 

Ginger is very trendy. Because it is so healthy, more and more people are using this root. It is also ideal for flavoring dishes, in fresh but also in syrup or powder form. Taste and user tests have already confirmed that this Belgian ginger outshines the usual product from Brazil, Peru, and China. The Colruyt Group is therefore proud to market this locally-grown, tasty, ultra-fresh product.

Source

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Crop protection

New research greenhouse for natural crop protection developer

Thorben, in the foreground, at the new facility

Valto received the keys to a greenhouse with 17 departments on the Hoefweg in De Lier, with which director Thorben Looije is taking the next step in his growth ambition.

Valto is a Dutch family business specialising in natural crop protection products. Their best-known product, V10, protects tomato plants against the highly damaging pepino mosaic virus. The research into new, natural crop protection products has so far been done at various locations.

After the imminent modifications to the new greenhouse complex, Valto’s researchers will be able to carry out larger tests on several crops and all in one place, close to the family business’s office at Leehove.

The new research facility fits in with the growth plans of the company, which develops and supplies biocontrol agents. “We believe in the power of nature,” Thorben Looije says. “We develop natural crop protection products to make crops resilient to plant diseases. This is a perfect fit within the goals of a greener Europe, but also those of growers, who also attach importance to health, sustainability and the environment.”

Natural protection
The government uses Green Deals to encourage companies to reduce their impact on the environment. For greenhouse horticulture and agriculture, this means using more natural crop protection. Valto wants to respond to this need by conducting more research and tests and developing new biocontrol agents. The new greenhouse will make this possible in the future.

Innovation in legislation
According to Thorben, a condition for innovation is that legislation innovates too: “Our customers want a healthy harvest and good returns. They ask us to help them prevent diseases in their crops. We are happy to do that with the help of nature, but then the legislation has to be adapted. The approval procedure for natural crop protection products now takes about 8 to 10 years. Fortunately, more and more people in The Hague and Brussels are realizing that legislation must grow along with us if we want to meet the European goals.”

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Crop protection

Innovative strategies for biological control

Year after year, the number of crop protection and chemical products that can be employed to counter pathogens and harmful insects in agriculture gets smaller and smaller. Within that scenario and with the aim of achieving a more sustainable management of resources in line with the objectives of Agenda 2030, biological control using useful predators is the only solution.

It is with this purpose in mind that Agri Impo Tech was established in 2019 as an offshoot of Agri Impol in Battipaglia (Salerno), which boasts thirty years of experience in the preparation of pollination programs using bees and bumblebees.

“What is new in the world of biological control is the possibility of feeding mites and useful insects right after they are introduced. This way, they can develop before the attack of harmful insects. This strategy means useful insects can be launched even if their counterparts are not present yet. Nutrimite, distributed by Agri Impol Tech, has led to excellent results,” reports Antonio Rago, owner of Agri Impol and Agri Impol Tech.

For the past 30 years, Antonio Rago and his company have worked to make agriculture as sustainable as possible developing strategies with a low environmental impact. Agri Impol and Biobest have in fact signed an agreement for the sale and distribution of hives of Flying Doctor bumblebees and of all insects useful for biological control.

“Tuta Trap is a pheromone trap that attracts Tuta absoluta adult males. It can be used to monitor and mass capture parasite lepidoptera. Capturing males, in fact, noticeably reduces infestations dropping them to an acceptable level. 15/20 traps per hectare are needed in greenhouses and 15/25 per hectare in open fields. These can also be combined with color insect traps for monitoring and mass capturing.”

Another objective for the company is making producers understand the importance of pollination, which represents a crucial phase for setting and, therefore, for production.

“Nature alone is not enough to meet pollination needs, this is why we suggest introducing bees and bumblebees during blossoming. We are basically talking about buzz-pollination (especially for tomatoes) carried out by bumblebees, who are more stationary than bees and able to work at lower temperatures and in less-ideal weather (wind and rain). Bees are more suitable for late blossoming.”

“Apipol box has become available this year, i.e a hive containing two bee colonies. It was developed to favor entomophilous pollination in open-field crops and we will showcase it during Macfrut.”

“We will welcome you at Macfrut, stand 111, hall B5 to present our new company established in 2019 – Agri Impol Tech.”

Do you wish to create a pollination program perfect for you or get to know biological control options? The company will welcome you at Macfrut on September 7-9, 2021.

For further information:
Agri Impol s.r.l.
via Milano
84090 Montecorvino Pugliano (SA) -Italy
+39 0828 53744
+39 0828 507182
info@agriimpol.it
www.agriimpol.it

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