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Once the undesired growth is identified, it needs only to be treated with the microsprayer. This device, new to the field of agriculture, sprays small quantities of herbicide in 5 microliter drop increments directly onto the leaves of the wild potato. Traveling at 3 kph, the sprayer works with a precision of ±15 mm.
Marlin: flexible and robust industrial camera
When considering cameras, the decision went quickly to the Marlin from Allied Vision Technologies. This proven industrial camera was predestined for the task, thanks to its reliable use under difficult conditions. "Beyond that, this AVT camera allows for especially easy configuration to individual needs, such as area of interest, shading correction or trigger calibrations," explained Ard Nieuwenhuizen.
Efficient weed control increases harvests and protects the
Deployment of prototype equipment in practical use proved to be a complete success. For the first time, an automated solution had been developed to do away with weed potatoes. Using such a solution yields economic as well as ecological benefits: thanks to the targeted spraying of only the undesired plants, large quantities of previously applied herbicides are spared and costs are reduced.
Likewise, environmental impact is radically reduced in two ways. First, less poison is used to destroy wild potatoes, and second, early and efficient abatement of the weed as disease agent enables reduced chemical treatment of the sugar beet itself in the course of the plant's growth cycle.
Industrial companies have already shown an interest in marketing the system. However, more development is needed before the system can abate not just wild potatoes but other invasive plants as well, making it more attractive for farmers. Moreover, another research team at Wageningen University and Research Center is working on another automatic weed recognition system using AVT cameras that will not spray undesired plants but instead will mechanically remove them, making it also appropriate for organic farming.