Using Drones To Scout Almonds From Above

The drone being used to fly the 35-acre test block at California State University, Fresno, can be flown by a grower. (Photo Credit: AeroVironment)

It sounds like an almond grower’s magnificent dream: Instead of having people walking orchard blocks to make sure your trees are getting adequate irrigation, you just whip out your phone or tablet and chart a course for your drone.

But if the scientists involved in a new project are correct, this is no dream. When growers wake up in the morning, they can draw up a flight plan and check various orchards — without ever leaving their front porch.

Researchers at California State University, Fresno recently agreed to partner with AeroVironment, a Southern California company specializing in unmanned aircraft systems, to find out how much water stress can be picked up with aerial imagery.

Precision Ag Vision Conference adAthanasios Alexandrou, Professor and Chairman of the Industrial Technology Department at Fresno State’s Jordan College of Agriculture, said they are now reviewing the literature to determine what levels of stress they will put on a test orchard, a 35-acre block of ‘Nonpareil,’ ‘Aldrich,’ and ‘Price’ that is located on campus.

Following a predetermined schedule, they will fly the orchard with a drone to collect imagery. At the same time, down on the ground, they will be collecting moisture levels of both the soils and the leaves. They will then correlate the data, concluding how much stress can be determined through the air, Alexandrou says.

“The long-term goal of this kind of project is collecting and analyzing data to investigate if drones can pick up water stress without the need to do soil or leaf sampling at some point in the future,“ he says.

Cutting Irrigation
Any research that can enable almond growers to use less water would be welcome. Until the recent welcome winter storms, growers were being targeted by people claiming the crop uses inordinate amounts of water.

It’s not really true that almonds use a lot more water than other crops. University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor David Doll, aka “The Almond Doctor,” notes that virtually all food crops need about one liter of water to produce one calorie. Almond growers, who now farm close to 1 million acres in the state, are just more visible than other farmers.

The DSS Swipe tool allows you to contrast color and vegetative health images. (Photo Credit: AeroVironment)

But it would still behoove the industry to reduce water use. Doing it by relying on aerial imagery would have the further advantage of helping to lessen growers’ reliance on hiring increasingly scarce workers.

“Ultimately we want to help farmers reduce their labor force, to get information from fields without sending out so many employees,” Alexandrou says.

No Boots On The Ground
Mark Dufau, AeroVironment Director of Sales, Commercial Information Solutions, says they will use the imagery taken by the drone and correlate that with the results of the soil moisture probes and pressure bombs to find out when the trees are truly being stressed.

“In the future, we believe you will be able to go ahead and skip an irrigation even if the schedule says you should water today,” he says. “You can create the most efficient watering plan available without hurting yield.”

Topics: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Nuts Stories
Nuts
October 28, 2017
Best Practices for Almond and Walnut Harvest Sample Evaluations
Identifying sources of damage can help you get a good read on your management practices in the past season and what you need to do differently next season. Read More
IFTA grand rapids tour bus
Citrus
October 23, 2017
What NOAA is Expecting Winter 2018 to Look Like
Looming La Niña could mean colder and wetter than normal in the northern U.S. and drier than usual in the south. Read More
Nuts
October 21, 2017
Use the Off-Season to Your Orchard’s Advantage
While the hard work of harvest is over, there are still many tasks that can help you get a jump on the next growing season. Read More
Nuts
October 2, 2017
Almond Industry Group Backs USDA Export Funding Boost
Almond Alliance of California President Kelly Covello: Without Market Access Program money, the world-dominant industry “might not have entered China, which is now our third largest export market.” Read More
Nuts
September 25, 2017
Pollination Power Couple Teaming Up for Almonds
Growers would be better off adding blue orchard bees (BOBs), reducing their heavy dependence on honeybees that have to be brought into California each year. Read More
Nuts
September 12, 2017
Walnut Crop Expected to be Down 5%
While wet California winter was welcome to growers, some orchards were flooded, compromising root systems. Read More
Nuts
September 3, 2017
Codling Moth Monitoring Tips in Walnuts
Mating disruption doesn’t just affect those orchards directly involved; you need to consider the potential impact on nearby orchards. Read More
Insect Control
August 22, 2017
Stink Bug Threatens High-Dollar Crops in California
While populations are low, it appears invasive pest has recently stumbled upon the state’s peaches and almonds. Read More
Citrus
August 17, 2017
How Wicked Will Winter 2018 Be in the U.S.?
The 200th edition of the Farmers’ Almanac reveals wide-ranging weather patterns and events that would require everything from shovels to shorts. Read More
Nuts
July 30, 2017
The New Normal of Almond Orchard Canopies
Just because an almond orchard has no live lower limbs doesn’t mean it’s not extraordinarily productive. Read More
Nuts
July 29, 2017
New Orchard Systems Advisor Returns Home
Luke Milliron, who’s back in the Butte County area, is ready to help growers, especially improving irrigation. Read More
Nuts
July 28, 2017
Self-Fertile Almond Dominates New Plantings
‘Independence’ almond — which cuts pollination and other cultural costs — now represents one-quarter of all plantings. Read More
Citrus
July 23, 2017
USDA Invests $7.6 Million toward Beneficial Insect Research
Projects to promote beneficial organisms as part of a pest control strategy. Read More
Fruits
July 14, 2017
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Predator Egg Mass Found
Samuri wasp parasitized egg mass found in Southern New Jersey peach orchard. Read More
Mobile technology farming
Citrus
July 10, 2017
Practical Solutions Are Bringing Precision Agriculture Closer to Earth
Growing the budding ag-tech sector to maturity likely will require a deeper meeting of the minds between technologists and agriculturists. Read More
The Latest
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
Biostimulants Making Big Strides as It S…
The inaugural BiocontrolsSM USA East Conference & Expo in Orlando, FL, featured two days of educational sessions focused on how Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
Microbial-based Biostimulants: Big Poten…
There is no shortage of interest in or questions and opinions about biostimulants. Many are working to develop them as Read More
Nuts
October 29, 2017
Vole Presence High in Nut Orchards Thank…
Economic losses, reduced production, and increased labor costs all are a result of dealing with high pest populations in orchards. Read More
Nuts
October 28, 2017
Best Practices for Almond and Walnut Har…
Identifying sources of damage can help you get a good read on your management practices in the past season and what you need to do differently next season. Read More
Citrus
October 23, 2017
What NOAA is Expecting Winter 2018 to Lo…
Looming La Niña could mean colder and wetter than normal in the northern U.S. and drier than usual in the south. Read More
Nuts
October 21, 2017
Use the Off-Season to Your Orchard’s Adv…
While the hard work of harvest is over, there are still many tasks that can help you get a jump on the next growing season. Read More
Nuts
October 2, 2017
Almond Industry Group Backs USDA Export …
Almond Alliance of California President Kelly Covello: Without Market Access Program money, the world-dominant industry “might not have entered China, which is now our third largest export market.” Read More
Nuts
September 25, 2017
Pollination Power Couple Teaming Up for …
Growers would be better off adding blue orchard bees (BOBs), reducing their heavy dependence on honeybees that have to be brought into California each year. Read More
Nuts
September 12, 2017
Walnut Crop Expected to be Down 5%
While wet California winter was welcome to growers, some orchards were flooded, compromising root systems. Read More
Nuts
September 3, 2017
Codling Moth Monitoring Tips in Walnuts
Mating disruption doesn’t just affect those orchards directly involved; you need to consider the potential impact on nearby orchards. Read More
Insect Control
August 22, 2017
Stink Bug Threatens High-Dollar Crops in…
While populations are low, it appears invasive pest has recently stumbled upon the state’s peaches and almonds. Read More
Citrus
August 17, 2017
How Wicked Will Winter 2018 Be in the U.…
The 200th edition of the Farmers’ Almanac reveals wide-ranging weather patterns and events that would require everything from shovels to shorts. Read More
Nuts
July 30, 2017
The New Normal of Almond Orchard Canopie…
Just because an almond orchard has no live lower limbs doesn’t mean it’s not extraordinarily productive. Read More
Nuts
July 29, 2017
New Orchard Systems Advisor Returns Home
Luke Milliron, who’s back in the Butte County area, is ready to help growers, especially improving irrigation. Read More
Nuts
July 28, 2017
Self-Fertile Almond Dominates New Planti…
‘Independence’ almond — which cuts pollination and other cultural costs — now represents one-quarter of all plantings. Read More
Citrus
July 23, 2017
USDA Invests $7.6 Million toward Benefic…
Projects to promote beneficial organisms as part of a pest control strategy. Read More
Fruits
July 14, 2017
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Predator Egg …
Samuri wasp parasitized egg mass found in Southern New Jersey peach orchard. Read More
Citrus
July 10, 2017
Practical Solutions Are Bringing Precisi…
Growing the budding ag-tech sector to maturity likely will require a deeper meeting of the minds between technologists and agriculturists. Read More