• ABC News: Drones could be the answer to early disease detection in banana crops

    The banana industry hopes remote sensing could help detect disease.
    ABC Rural: Lorna Perry

    A researcher is looking into the possibility of using remote sensing to detect diseases in banana crops.

    University of New England PhD candidate Aaron Aeberli said different sensor systems could be attached to satellites or drones.

    “Remote sensing records the interaction of different objects to different levels of electromagnetic radiation systems,” he said. 

    Mr Aeberli said the technology was already being used in other crops such as sugar cane, wheat, cotton and peanuts.

    “A lot of the broadfield cropping systems have used them overseas to find out yield and other predictions like that,” he said.

    “There’s potential to find out the health of the different plants, and if we can work on it enough, the potential to detect disease occurrence.”

    Diseases could be detected early through the application of thermal imaging.

    “It uses a different part of the spectrum to monitor the warmth or heat of the object, and a lot of plants, their function is impaired by disease, particularly the heat or thermal regulation,” Mr Aeberli said.

    “There is potential to notice changes in the leaf temperature if the plant is no longer able to function normally.

    “Some of the bigger crops like wheat, they use it a fair amount and it does save them time. It can help with production and management systems.”

    PhD candidate Aaron Aeberli shows banana growers from northern New South Wales how thermal sensing works.
    ABC Rural: Kim Honan

    Technology to be trialled in Queensland 

    Mr Aeberli is hoping to develop the technology further for the banana industry.

    He is collaborating with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Horticulture Innovation Australia on upcoming trials in far north Queensland.

    “We’re looking to take some satellite imagery and we’ll go into the field and try and evaluate this satellite imagery, so that the field conditions reflect what we’ve been taking from the satellites,” he said.

    “We’re also looking at the use of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) for a similar system.”

    There could be potential for banana growers to one day monitor the health of their own crops by drones.

    “It’s early days so we need to work out what systems work,” Mr Aeberli said.

    “I wouldn’t necessarily go out and tell everyone to buy a drone at this point in time, but once a valid system that works has been set up, there’s potential for that.” 

    Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-18/drones-may-detect-banana-disease/7637312 

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