Local researchers using drones and rovers to increase resiliency in agriculture

Local News

Cornell University has been using Musgrave Research Farm to conduct studies for the past 80 years. Recently they’ve added something new: Digital technology.

They are using new technology and working with the United States Department of Agriculture to create resiliency in the field.

A massive drone and a rover aren’t just responsible for taking pictures. They’re collecting data, saving money and saving a whole lot of time.

Joseph Gage, Postdoctoral Researcher with the USDA says, “On the one hand, the results coming from this can be used to drive breeding efforts to make better corn varieties that then create cheaper food, cheaper fuel but then it also can be used to help farmers who actually grow corn every season.”

Lindsay asks, “Why does using the drone make that better or easier to see?”

Nick Kaczmar, Research Support Specialist with Cornell University says, “Well, we have 1600 varieties out here right now. If I was going to examine by eye, it would take me days. I could do it in 30 minutes with a drone.”

30 minutes to see and record information from a bird’s eye view and researchers aren’t stopping there.

Gage says, “When you’re looking at corn from above, you’re quite a ways away and the multispectral cameras on the drone do a good job assessing things like disease and health. The rover though has sensors on it that allow us to assess the size and shape of the plants and so as they grow, it’s right on the ground with them.”

Researchers are upping the agriculture game by evaluating plant health from the day the plants come out of the ground.

Mike Gore, Professor of genetics and plant breeding at Cornell University says, “When I think about what we’re trying to do, I think about baseball. When you have a baseball player you look at their batting average over the season. But to really understand that player, you want to know what their batting average is for every single game that they play.”

Lindsay says, “The evolution of this technology, tell me a little bit about it.”

Gage says, “This rover has come all the way from concept to what you’re seeing now in a matter of 2-2.5 years so the technology really has a lot of momentum and is moving and changing quite quickly.”

So quickly that over the coming years these could be operating on their own, boosting a field that covers nearly a quarter of New York State.

Kaczmar says, “In my opinion, I may be a little biased but it’s the most important field because it feeds us all and it really supports the upstate economy.”

This research isn’t just limited to corn, they can use it when farming soy, grapes, even dairy.

Click the video below to see what a drone sees from the sky, thanks to Cornell University.


For more Storm Team news, follow Lindsay Raychel on Twitter @LindsayrNC9

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