Airborne weed killer helps farmers and the Reef

News release | 26-Mar-2018

In what is a first for the Queensland cane industry, the Queensland Government is using drones to scan sugarcane crops and eliminate weeds with a precisely targeted shot of herbicide.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said the $25,000 drone was programmed to hit weeds with accurate spot spraying and reduce the amount of herbicide used by growers.

“Over the course of a three-year trial we’ll be mapping selected canefields using a standard drone with a high resolution camera onboard, which will pinpoint where the weeds are,” the Minister said.

“Using that information, the new spray drone will locate and then take out the weeds using just the right amount of herbicide to spot spray in specific locations. 

“This technology provides options for cane growers to move away from blanket spraying an entire block, which will cut both financial and environmental costs.

“At the end of trial, we’ll be able to clearly see how effective the drone is in reducing weed populations compared to standard procedures such as applying herbicides from ground based equipment, such as a tractor based spray rig, or applying herbicide from an aircraft.”

The Minister said the joint Queensland and Australian Government investment in the drone trial, with support from Innisfail CANEGROWERS, was another example of the government’s commitment to supporting innovative and sustainable farming practices while reducing agricultural pollutant runoff to better protect the Great Barrier Reef.

“Precision agriculture is a burgeoning area in which substantial gains can be obtained in both farm profitability and efficiency,” he said.  

“Some forward thinking producers have been using drone technology for a few years now, but this is the first time we’ve used it to spray weeds in a sugar cane production system.”
  
The trial is using a DJI Agras MG-1S agricultural spray drone, which can carry 10L of mixed herbicide and deliver it precisely to weeds. A video of the drone in action will soon be available at www.daf.qld.gov.au

CANEGROWERS CEO Dan Galligan said the organisation’s sugarcane farming members had a proud and ongoing culture of innovation and adaption.

“Sugarcane growers are hard-wired to try new things that can help take the guess work out of farming, to boost productivity and profitability and enhance sustainability,” he said.

“From green cane harvesting, to sub-surface fertiliser applications and systems to target herbicides and pesticides, there’s always been interest and investment in farm practices that reduce environmental impacts along with input costs.

“Taking to the air with some of these tasks is the next exciting step for the industry and CANEGROWERS Innisfail is leading the way.”

Media contact: Mark Hodder, P: 3087 8598 M: 0421 618 871