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Drones could spot potato virus in fields

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A US scientist is investigating the potential of using aerial drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to spot symptoms of potato diseases live PVY.

Donna Delparte, assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences at Idaho State University (ISU) discussed her research at the Idaho Potato Conference in January.

“They are very much the future, especially when we’re working on trying to expand the technology and look at new and novel ways to use UAV, such as crop-invasive species,” she said.

Using a special camera it’s possible to fly a drone over a field and determine the precise locations of plants infected with PVY with a reasonable level of certainty. Delparte’s team created a profile of what an infected plant looks like with a hyperspectral camera, and then took that profile to the field to identify infected plants. The results were ‘ground-truthed’ and after tuning the algorithm reached an 89.8 percent success rate.

The drone imagery combined with a Real Time Kinematic (RTK) GPS system, provided the location of the PVY infected potato plants. “Imagine we send a farmer a dot on a map or a GPS that says, ‘this is where you should be able to find PVY infected plants,’ and be able to do some sort of mitigation,” Delparte explained.

Despite the promise, the costs of the camera and the computing power required to crunch the large amount of data generated are both issues which need to be overcome.

 

Photo Credit: pxhere

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