WSU researchers are using satellites and drones to search for better wheat varieties to feed a growing world. The team launched a new project this spring, developing techniques that allow satellites and drones to identify and study wheat varieties from overhead. This research is funded by a USDA-NIFA grant.
The team looks to speed up research toward identifying better, more productive wheat varieties. If successful it will give growers powerful new tools to improve farming. Wheat currently feeds more than 1/3rd of the human population and is grown on more acres than any other crop. To meet the growing worldwide demand and stay ahead of pests, pathogens and a changing environment, wheat breeders strive to develop improved varieties. Phenotyping (measuring the way plant genes are expressed physically) allows selection of the best plants to breed for improved yield, grain quality and disease resistance. Machines can sense crop traits faster. With modern satellite imagery matched together with drones, visual and infrared imagery can be collected from wheat plots. Drone cameras can collect data with the hope that this matching process will enable identification of wheat varieties from orbit.
Part of the project’s challenge is to learn whether wheat varieties and their physical characteristics can be differentiated by their spectral data. “Sensors are getting better every day,” said team member Sindhuja Sankaran, an associate professor and sensor technology researcher at WSU’s Department of Biological Systems Engineering. “As resolution increases and camera costs drop, we have more powerful tools to sense how crops are performing.” Improved sensors will help to speed up the selection of new varieties, as well as help predict yields, monitor crop performance and protect plants from drought.
How does artificial intelligence-powered precision farming affect food sustainability?
This is a question that Filling Space.com asked their panel of experts, including Sindhuja Sankaran, an Agricultural Automation Engineering specialist from Washington State University’s Biological Systems Engineering Department.
Sankaran says, “For us, artificial intelligence serves as a key tool that assists in the application of sensor technology for phenotyping applications. Given the natural variability in plants, the thousands of crop varieties evaluated, and advancements in sensor technology (e.g. hyperspectral imaging system), it is impossible to identify patterns and evaluate plant traits without the application of artificial intelligence techniques… we use these methods to contribute to machine-guided informed selection of varieties, thus contributing to sustainability.”
Some 30 years ago, he was a lad tending rice, sugarcane, goats and other crops on his family’s subsistence farm in the mid-hill region of Bhojpur, Nepal.
Last December, Manoj Karkee (pronounced Maw-nose Car-key) was among 11 U.S. and Canadian professors named 2019 pioneers in artificial intelligence and the internet by Connected World, a business and technology publication.
Karkee, 41, is an associate professor in the Biological Systems Engineering Department at Washington State University. He leads a staff of 12 in the Agricultural Automation and Robotics Laboratory at the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser.
The team of Qin Zhang, Xin Zhang, Long He, Yaqoob Majeed, Matthew D. Whiting and Manoj Karkee have been selected to receive a 2019 ASABE Superior Paper Award.
This group will be honored at the General Session Recognition Program during the ASABE Annual International Meeting on July 8th, 2019 at the Boston Marriott Copley Place.
Qin Zhang – Professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering and Director, Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems, Washington State University, Prosser, WA.
Xin Zhang – Graduate Student in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering and Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems, Washington State University, Prosser, WA.
Long He – Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Fruit Research and Extension Center, Pennsylvania State University, Biglerville, PA.
Yaqoob Majeed – Graduate Student in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering and Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems, Washington State University, Prosser, WA.
Matthew D. Whiting – Professor in the Department of Horticulture, Washington State University, Prosser, WA.
Manoj Karkee – Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering and Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems, Washington State University, Prosser, WA.
Against the gray, late-autumn sky, it’s hard to miss the green plume spraying into the dormant orchard.
It’s a very colorful solution to a nearly invisible problem.
Underlying every pesticide label regulation lie complex calculations of risk to protect workers, bystanders and the environment from drift. But the methods federal regulators use to determine drift allowances from airblast sprayers date back decades — and likely overestimate the risk in modern orchards.
“All the restrictions and statements on labels are based on a set of assumptions of a worst-case scenario,” said Washington State University extension specialist Gwen Hoheisel. “If we could have a better estimate and the worst-case scenario is not actually as bad as it’s currently estimated, it could lead to less restrictive labels.”
That’s why Hoheisel, WSU agricultural engineer Lav Khot and a team of research associates were eager to watch the path of that fluorescent green cloud from the airblast sprayer. To the naked eye, little drift beyond the orchard block could be seen. However, dozens of drift samplers transecting up to 600 feet across the adjacent field were poised to catch and measure any particles that reached them.
BSE graduate students in the Agricultural Automation Engineering research area Haitham Bahlol and Rajeev Sinha presented their work on “Horticultural oil thermotherapy for pear psyllid management”. During the event, Rajeev Sinha spoke to CAHNRS Dean Wright at the 2019 BioAg Symposium
Their poster was awarded the ‘Best Graduate Poster Award’ with $500 scholarship.
Citation: Bahlol, H.Y., R. Sinha*, L.R. Khot, G.-A. Hoheisel and R. Ehsani. 2019. Efficacy evaluation of horticultural oil based thermotherapy for pear psylla management. 2019 BIOAg Symposium, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University, Pullman, WA. February 7, 2018. (Received ‘Best Graduate Poster Award’).
The online magazine “Connected World” recognized a WSU associate professor as one of the 2019 artificial intelligence pioneers.
Manoj Karkee, a biological systems engineering associate professor, said the magazine chooses its pioneers based on their use of artificial intelligence, data analytics and technology around the world.
“Other scientists are recognized from different prestigious universities,” Karkee said. “It gives me a lot of pleasure to be selected in that elite group of people.”
PROSSER – WSU’s Lav Khot will look to reduce reliance on broad spectrum pesticides that result in residues on food with an award from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR).
Khot and his collaborators received one of FFAR’s New Investigator awards for 2018, which includes a 3-year, $300,000 grant. Part of the grant will be used to study the usefulness of ozonated water, or water that has the O3 molecule, also known as ozone, dissolved into it.