Trials show promise of automated topical herbicide application

An automated vision-guided droplet application system with the potential to reduce herbicide use by 95 per cent should be ready for field trials in 2018, according to AHDB Horticulture.

Image: AHDB Horticulture
Image: AHDB Horticulture

The eyeSpot research project incorporates an automated spot herbicide ejector to point and shoot metered droplets to weed leaves in row crops, based on an innovative imaging system to distinguish weeds from crops.

It aims to minimise drift, spatter and run-off, will also evaluate the dose required to kill weeds at different growth stages, helping reduce chemical use still further.

Labour and energy requirements are also expected to be significantly lower than for existing mechanical weed control methods.

Preliminary field trials to establish proof of concept took place this summer. In these, droplets of glyphosate were applied manually in a crop of savoy cabbages, achieving 92 per cent weed control and significantly higher yields than with the conventionally applied pre-emergence herbicide, pendimethalin.

The rate of herbicide application, of just 83g glyphosate per hectare, was also 94 per cent lower than for the pendimethalin. Yields were "not significantly lower" than in a control hand-weeded trial.

The project's leader, University of Reading associate professor Dr Alistair Murdoch said: "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."

The research is funded by AHDB Horticulture, Douglas Bomford Trust, Edith Mary Gayton Trust Fund and the University of Reading.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

Can a labour crisis be averted in the UK berry industry?

Can a labour crisis be averted in the UK berry industry?

Failure to secure sufficient supply of seasonal labour would not only cripple Britain's thriving soft-fruit industry but would hit affordability and availability of a healthy everyday food, according to a report by agricultural consultancy Andersons Midlands for industry body British Summer Fruits (BSF).

How will a reduced European apple harvest impact on UK growers?

How will a reduced European apple harvest impact on UK growers?

British top fruit growers concerned about the impact of this season's late frost can take some comfort from the situation on the Continent, where according to analysts, damage to tree fruit is at least as bad.

Pest & Disease Factsheet - White mould

Pest & Disease Factsheet - White mould