Gautam Pradhan to Give Drone Demonstration And Discuss Applications At WREC Field Day

 At 4:50 p.m. CT, Gautam Pradhan, WRECs Dryland Research Agronomist, will be demonstrating how to use an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in variety selection and sharing information about UAV's performance on crop production and precision field management at the Williston Research Extension Center's Dryland Field Day, July 14. 

The project Pradhan will be speaking on includes the applicability of UAV based high throughput phenotyping in the identification of drought tolerant cereal genotypes. "We anticipate a positive result, which will increase selection efficiency and expedite the development of high yielding drought tolerant cereal varieties for dryland farming. The ultimate result will be an enhanced yield and increased income of ND producers," explained Pradhan.

In North Dakota, about 99% of field crops are non-irrigated, and drought is the single most crucial abiotic factor affecting yield and quality of dryland crops. Therefore, it is imperative to develop technologies/strategies that decrease the effects of drought on crop performance and yield. An example of technology that is helping improve farming is a UAV.

The development of tolerant varieties is one of the most efficient approaches to mitigate the impact of drought stress. Pradhan said, "Plant physiological traits such as the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), normalized difference red edge (NDRE), and canopy temperature (CT) are directly related to crop growth and yield; a stress tolerant crop usually has higher NDVI/NDRE and low CT as compared to a susceptible crop. These traits, along with plant height and green area index, when frequently measured during the growing season, may help in the identification of high yielding drought tolerant genotypes from standing crops. These traits are time sensitive; for example, the CT of a plant in the morning will be entirely different than in the afternoon. However, the collection of these data manually from thousands of plots requires a tremendous amount of time and labor, and breeders are not using these traits in genotype selection. Thus, to identify drought tolerant genotypes rapidly and accurately from standing crops, there is a need of an application of precision agriculture, i.e., an application of high throughput phenotyping system comprised of geographic information systems, remote sensing, and geographic positioning system, which enables the measurement of physiological/canopy data from thousands of plots quickly (within minutes), frequently (6-7 times during the growing season), and accurately georeferenced."

Pradhan explained, "In this project, we will be flying the drone with sensors to collect data on traits. The data will be correlated with growth and yield components and help breeders to develop high yielding drought tolerant genotypes of spring wheat, barley, and a drone."

The long-term goal of this project is to provide selection tools to cereal breeders that aid in the rapid development of drought-tolerant varieties. 


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