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Drones in precision agriculture

Posted in: January 13, 2022

Farming in Brazil is recognized as among the most efficient in the world. This is largely down to the high level of technology applied throughout the value chain, which includes the application of agricultural pesticides. Oxiteno integrates this process by developing adjuvants, solubilizing agents, and other excipients that make safer, more innovative formulations for state-of-the-art products.

In addition to strict operational control, including production and transportation to customers, Oxiteno studies and tracks trends and innovation opportunities throughout the chain. Among the ongoing studies of application technologies, the use of drones to map and spray agricultural pesticides has enormous potential. The project is already underway with partners in China and is being closely monitored by the Brazilian team.

Drones are a new technology whose benefits in different sectors are still being researched and confirmed. Mastery of all the technical details and restrictions to achieve excellence in their use is still a challenge in precision agriculture. But much has been achieved in testing which attests to the advantages and potential of this technology according to relief, area, and crop. From this data, it will be possible, finally, to develop a protocol for the application of our products by drones. This will help eliminate objections raised by a lack of knowledge and reliable studies confirming this new equipment’s feasibility.

More sustainability with drones – Although these are early days, drones make essential contributions to more sustainable agriculture. The advantages begin with electrification. They do not run on fossil fuel and so do not emit CO2, and other greenhouse gases like tractors and airplanes do. Application is precise, end to end, based on multispectral mapping and makes it possible to fly low at a constant speed, with the same nozzle flow achieving homogeneous dispersion and a very low drift index. This is not to mention there is no soil compaction or trampling of seedlings, as is the case with tractors. These, it should be remembered, are vectors of bacteria and fungi.

Given their accuracy, drones use minimal dosages, drastically reducing waste and water.  Reports by a Brazilian company, MMR Drones, show that drones use up to 85% less herbicide than other means and only 5% of the water. “While a tractor application uses 20,000 liters on 100 hectares, a drone uses only 1000 liters,” says Marcello Micheloni Raghi, of MMR Drones. He adds that this smaller amount facilitates the use of water with an adequate pH level, strictly following what guidelines on the labels.

Speaking of guidelines, full attention must be paid to dosage with accurate drones as errors are not only costly, but they can also build up resistance. The other parameters are the same as for other means of application, including drop size and solubility, which Oxiteno extensively evaluates during formulation testing. So, there is no need to develop specific ingredients for drone applications, but testing is critical to their effectiveness in drone spraying.

Precise application also reduces the risk of soil contamination and eliminates correctives for such. Drone crop spraying with pesticides is aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 2 (Zero Hunger and Sustainable Agriculture), 6 (Drinking Water and Sanitation), and 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production). The SDGs, it should be remembered, are the benchmark for Oxiteno’s 2030 Sustainable Development Plan.

More security, quality, and productivity – The benefits of using drones in agriculture go beyond the environment. They are also very safe. The operator is remote, and drones can be used on different crops, land sizes, and terrains. In budgetary terms, they are also suitable for small, medium, and large producers who need and value excellence in plant health treatments.

The results are evident in crop quality and yield. For all these reasons, drone applications of agricultural pesticides are trending worldwide. The demand for traceable, low-carbon technologies increases daily. Oxiteno has no doubt that this solution will become widespread, and it continues to do research in China and Brazil, with the support of technical partners, into the benefits of using drones in agriculture.