Robot reduces use of plant protection products
A chopping robot with an integrated spraying system helps to reduce the use of plant protection products in vegetable production. This was the result of trials in fields with lettuce and pak choi.
Thanks to its camera, the modified chopping robot can recognise crops and selectively apply plant protection products by means of the spot spraying system, as the Association of Swiss Vegetable Producers announced. This means that less spraying solution ends up next to the actual target.
The robot is pulled by a tractor. In addition to spraying, the device hoes and weeds between and in the vegetable rows. In the trials, the consumption of fungicides was halved thanks to the robot compared to the area-by-area spraying methods. Weed killers (herbicides) were no longer necessary. The robot chopped away almost all weeds.
Reduction without additional costs
According to the association, the disadvantage of the robot is its low driving speed of 1.5 kilometres per hour. The costs for plant protection and weed control were four percent lower with the robot than with standard methods. With fewer weeds, however, the latter perform better.
The competitiveness of the robot thus depends on the amount of weeds. At least it reduces the amount of plant protection products considerably and without significant additional costs, because the prototype eliminates the need for expensive manual weeding.
An improved model will be used in the follow-up project starting in spring. The robot will only spray with pinpoint accuracy and no longer hoe. This makes it lighter and it can be moved more quickly across the field, which in turn increases economic efficiency. In addition to the robot tests, the spraying agent input into the environment will continue to be monitored.