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vor 1 Jahr

FELD 01/2022

  • Text
  • Articifial intelligence
  • Precision farming
  • Intensification
  • Patchcrop
  • Biodiversity
  • Climate
  • Agriculture
  • Farmers
  • Ecosystem
  • Zalf
  • Researchers
  • Sustainable
  • Landscape
  • Soil
  • Agricultural
Small squares instead of large fields: Together with a real farm, a research team is testing an unusual cropping system in the patchCROP landscape laboratory. // ZALF researchers are developing agricultural strategies to explicitly promote valuable ecosystem services like fertile soils and clean drinking water. // Striving for a resource-efficient agriculture without yield losses, more and more farmers are implementing measures of sustainable intensification on their farms. // Using precision farming to detect pest outbreaks and predict climate change effects: artificial intelligence holds great potential for agriculture.

patchCROP patchCROP

patchCROP patchCROP Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), and the Julius Kühn Institute — are closely collaborating with the scientists from ZALF. Around 35 researchers are currently using the site to investigate crucial challenges of sustainable agricultural production. Kathrin Grahmann is holding the reins of the various projects in her hands. »No one here walks onto the field without my knowledge«, she says resolutely. She coordinates all scientific activities to ensure that people do not get into each other’s way; she is accountable to the landowners, and she knows when the site must temporarily be closed after pesticide application. She also keeps track of the particularly sensitive measuring points that cannot be disturbed under any circumstances in order to avoid confounding results. »If you want to convince the scientific community and the farmers, you have to prove that the new system is better than the old one«, says Kathrin Grahmann. How meticulously and comprehensively the researchers collect data in their new cropping system is underpinned by the large number of different measurements and experiments. Each »patch« of the landscape laboratory contains six soil sensors, which are installed at different depths We want to show how field robotics and digital technologies can facilitate more diversity in our fields. KATHRIN GRAHMANN to measure soil moisture, temperature and conductivity. Those monitored data are automatically retrieved every 20 minutes and posted online. The researchers thus have complete knowledge of what is happening on the site. But there is even more: »In the future, smart robots will use this information to decide where to fertilize or irrigate«, explains Grahmann. Acoustic sensors will soon record insect and bird sounds. The researchers will then feed this data into computer models that use artificial intelligence to determine which species are present in the area and even how abundant they are. Additionally, an ornithologist observes the birds living and breeding here every 2–4 weeks. A FLEET OF AUTONOMOUS FIELD ROBOTS The reduction of pesticide use is a declared goal of the researchers, who therefore need to monitor the plant health status on the site. Are insects eating any part of the crop? Do the plants have fungal or viral diseases? Instead of using preventive pesticide spraying, as has been the case in the past, selected plots are only sprayed when there is an imminent threat. Currently, researchers of the Julius Kühn Institute are checking weekly whether or not this is the case. In the future, these diagnoses will be made using digital technologies. In the rapeseed patches, for example, the researchers are testing prototypes of a »digital yellow trap« that is used to monitor inflight of pollen beetles and stem weevils. A camera regularly takes pictures of the yellow trap content that are evaluated by an algorithm. The level of pest infestation is thus recorded entirely automatically. In real time, the farmer can then decide whether the plants need to be treated. One day, this technology could be used to detect infestations in other crops as well. Natural enemies can also help to reduce pesticide use. The researchers have established flower strips next to some »patches«. The field pansy is already in bloom, providing the first bees and bumblebees with pollen and nectar. Fresh leaf rosettes stand next to dead stems from the previous year. »These are the structures that insects need to pupate and survive over winter«, explains Kathrin Grahmann. She considers the flower strip not only as a refuge for pollinators or ground-nesting birds, but also as a plant protection measure: beneficial insects are expected to colonize the strip and reduce aphids or caterpillars in neighbouring fields. The researchers expect that this will increase yields and reduce pesticide application. Kathrin Grahmann is convinced that the use of field robotics will change the face of agriculture in the coming decades. The researcher considers this a great opportunity for a major system transformation, brought by small, autonomous and flexible field robots. The patchCROP team is also engaged in the required transfer and networking activities, for example by means of workshops in which scientists, members of the local chambers of agriculture, manufacturers of field robots and, of course, farmers can 08 09

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