A recent study by UF/IFAS researchers shows the benefits of the use of drones in the grove for Florida citrus growers.

Florida citrus growers have a lot on their plates these days, but research done by scientists with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) shows that drones, also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), can make some of those tasks easier. A UF/IFAS blog post details the ways the research has shown drones can help citrus growers, and the potential benefits. See a summary below.

Benefits of Drones for Florida Citrus Growers

The research has shown thus far that drones can accurately detect and count citrus trees—and recognize and count empty spaces—in the grove, according to Yiannis Ampatzidis, who is both a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering and a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Florida. This would save Florida citrus growers significant time and labor hours.

“This is the very first step toward developing an individual tree analysis, Growers need to know the number and location of tree gaps in order to order and replant new trees. They need to know problematic areas and weak trees.” Beyond giving an accurate picture of the number of trees in a grove, the application is especially helpful with the detailed information required by many ag insurance policies.

Researchers used drones fitted with an imaging mechanism to fly over citrus groves and count both the number of citrus trees and gaps left by trees removed due to citrus greening, also called HLB. The results were much more accurate than currently available drone-based methods. “We flew in a field with about 5,000 trees and failed to detect only eight to 10 trees,” Ampatzidis said, and those other methods failed to detect around 500 trees, according to the blog.

The potential benefits that drones could also present include:

  • Detecting the health status of the citrus trees
  • Evaluating citrus varieties and rootstocks by detecting tree traits
  • Diagnosing heat stress and pest diseases, like citrus greening
  • Collecting data about traits such as tree size and height

Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.