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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: AERIAL APPLICATION RESEARCH FOR EFFICIENT CROP PRODUCTION
2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
1) Improve existing aerial application technologies to maximize efficiency and biological efficacy of crop production and protection compounds with minimal spray drift and impact to non-target systems. Subobjective 1A: Develop and implement standard procedures for evaluating drift reduction technologies (DRTs) and assessing biological impacts of sprays in crop canopies. Subobjective 1B: Develop and optimize the use of autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for pest control. Subobjective 1C: Assess biological impacts of spray drift. 2) Develop remote sensing and variable rate aerial application systems that enhance detection, prevention, and control of plant diseases, nutritional deficiencies, or insect damage in annual and perennial crops. Subobjective 2A: Characterize spatial variability of crop conditions using multispectral imaging to develop treatment maps for use with site-specific aerial application systems. Subobjective 2B: Integrate remote sensing and variable rate aerial application technologies to optimize crop management strategies. Subobjective 2C: Develop sensors that rapidly and/or remotely detect pest presence, crop condition, spray droplets, and volatile organic compounds. Subobjective 3D: Adapt autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for remote sensing of crop conditions. 3) Develop, enhance, and implement decision support systems that improve user ability to select and operate application equipment and schedule spray treatments that optimize biological efficacy. Subobjective 3A: Correlate aerial spray dispersion model estimates with off-target biological effects and in-swath deposition. Subobjective 3B: Develop and implement crop growth and management decision systems to optimize aerial applications.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Utilizing engineering and biological principles, laboratory and field studies will be conducted to evaluate the effects of various aerial application parameters, such as spray formulation and droplet size spectrum, on aerial application efficiency and biological efficacy. Efforts will focus on the integration of remote sensing and variable rate application systems to maximize the efficacy of crop production materials while minimizing any off-target impact from these sprays. Decision support systems will be developed that help applicators, farmers, and crop consultants in making the correct treatment decisions to protect a crop from pests. This project will develop and implement new and improved aerial application technologies for safe, efficient, and sustainable crop production and protection.


3.Progress Report:
Work under this project during FY 2013 resulted in significant progress in improving the efficacy of crop production and protection materials, enhancing the use of remote sensing and precision application in crop production systems, and spray droplet movement modeling. Tests were conducted in high-speed and low-speed wind tunnels to determine the levels of spray drift mitigation from a number of spray nozzles and formulations. These projects support the EPA Drift Reduction Technology (DRT) Program and the successful release of the Public Notification for DRT testing. Biological assessments of various mosquito control products and rates were conducted in new wind tunnel trials coupled with assessment of various bioassay cages. Free smartphone applications were developed for the iPhone and Android platforms that transfer the project's research data into more useful formats for our customers. Remote sensing studies were conducted that identified volunteer cotton plants in ditches and waterways and that also identified diseased cotton plants. Numerous remote sensing flights were conducted to monitor the spread of cotton root rot at two locations in Texas. Both aerial and ground remote sensing studies were conducted to evaluate nitrogen deficiencies in corn and disease severity in rice. Multidata fusion techniques and technologies were tested and shown to enhance the accuracy of field crop structure analyses as compared to single sensor assessments. Significant progress was made in development of spray deposition and drift models which will aid spray applicators in making applications that increase efficacy and minimize off-target spray drift. Project scientists during FY 2013 served on numerous occasions as experts in the aerial application industry and were sought out for advice and consultation by industry and academic research personnel, and by officials with the EPA, Dept. of Homeland Security, Dept. of Defense, State Department, USDA-APHIS, and representatives from numerous state agencies and organizations. This project expired in FY 2013, but was replaced by a bridging project pending certification by OSQR of the replacement project.


4.Accomplishments
1. Coordinated international spray droplet protocol. Numerous manufacturers and researchers within the agricultural application technology area provide spray performance data, but different measurement systems and methods used often produce conflicting data for the same tested nozzles and spray solutions. ARS scientists at College Station, Texas, working with scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and at the University of Queensland-Gatton (Australia) extensively tested both ground and aerial spray nozzles using similar test methods and equipment. The objective of the work was to standardize efforts so as to minimize differences in droplet size measurements between laboratories and thus to provide reproducible, validated data. Using a single set of ground and aerial nozzles with standardized test methods, droplet size data across all tested nozzles and operational settings varied less than 5% between days at the same laboratory, and among the three laboratories. This work has greatly enhanced the validity of data generated by these three cooperating labs, each of which contributes data to agrochemical manufacturers and to the U.S. EPA for product evaluations and registrations.

2. Drift reduction protocol for aerial and ground applications. With numerous new spray technologies and methods being developed for drift reduction, standardized measurement and evaluation methods are needed to advise applicators on the degree of drift reduction. ARS researchers at College Station, Texas, working closely with the U.S. EPA and other research and manufacturing entities, refined and tested application protocols and techniques; a generic testing protocol was developed that provides objective and unbiased testing of various drift reduction techniques. The protocol entitled "U.S. EPA Generic Verification Protocol for Testing Pesticide Application Spray Drift Reduction Technologies for Row and Field Crops" was released by the U.S. EPA-Office of Pesticide Programs in mid FY 2013; the document is a critical regulatory resource to assure minimization of drift in agricultural spray applications.


Review Publications
Fritz, B.K., Hoffmann, W.C., Bonds, J., Haas, K. 2012. Correction of spray concentration and bioassay cage penetration data. American Mosquito Control Association. 28(40):320-322.

Fritz, B.K., Hoffmann, W.C., Czaczyk, Z., Bagley, W., Kruger, G., Henry, R. 2012. Measurement and classification methods using the ASAE S572-1 reference nozzles. Journal of Plant Protection Research. 52:447-457.

Zhang, H., Lan, Y., Suh, C.P., Westbrook, J.K., Hoffmann, W.C., Yang, C., Huang, Y. 2013. Fusion of remotely sensed data from airborne and ground-based sensors to enhance detection of cotton plants. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture. 93:55-59.

Martin, D.E., Carlton, J.B. 2013. Airspeed and orifice size affect spray droplet spectrum from an aerial electrostatic nozzle for fixed-wing applications. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 29:5-10.

Hoffmann, W.C., Fritz, B.K., Bagley, W., Gednalske, J., Elsik, C., Kruger, G. 2012. Determination of selection criteria for spray drift reduction from atomization data. ASTM Special Technical Publication 1558 STP. p. 65-79.

Lan, Y., Zhang, H., Hoffmann, W.C., Lopez, J. 2013. Spectral response of spider mite infested cotton: Mite density and miticide rate study. International Journal of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. 6:48-52.

Xu, T., Xu, T., Lan, Y., Wu, W., Zhang, H., Zhu, H. 2012. A method for fast selecting feature wavelengths from the spectral information of crop nitrogen. Spectroscopy and Spectral Analysis. 32:1-5.

Yang, C., Lee, W. 2013. Precision agricultural systems. In: Zhang, Q., Pierce, F.J., editors. Agricultural Automation: Fundamentals and Practices. Springer. p. 63-94.

Yang, C., Everitt, J.H., Fletcher, R.S. 2013. Evaluating airborne hyperspectral imagery for mapping saltcedar infestations in west Texas. Journal of Applied Remote Sensing (JARS). 7(1):073556 (May 29, 2013). doi: 10.1117/1.JRS.7.073556.

Xue, X., Lan, Y. 2013. Agricultural aviation application in the USA. Transactions of the Chinese Agricultural Machinery. 44:194-201.

Honaker, J., Skrivanek, S., Lopez, J., Martin, D.E., Lombardini, L., Grauke, L.J., Harris, M. 2013. Blackmargined aphid (Monellia caryella (Fitch); Hemiptera: Aphididae) honeydew production in pecan (Carya illinoinesis (Koch)) and implications for managing the pecan aphid complex in Texas. Southwestern Entomologist. 38:19-32.

Last Modified: 4/25/2014
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