Robots May Eventually Help Kill Weeds That Impede Strawberry Yield (Growing America)

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.

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.

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