The ABE Department has four major programs in Precision & Mechanized Agriculture:
- Sensor-based Management for Crop Production,
- Improving Performance of Mechanical Operations
- Automated Technologies for Thinning and Intra-row Weeding
- Improving Crop Production through Utilization of Point-injection Technology.
Sensor-based Management for Crop Production Program
The goals of the Sensor-based Management for Crop Production Program are to (1) achieve the integration of multiple technologies to provide robust solutions in site-specific management of production inputs. Some of these technologies are commercially available, and others will require our own efforts in research and development and (2) generate cost-effective solutions for zone management of production inputs.
The Improving Performance of Mechanical Operations Program
The Improving Performance of Mechanical Operations Program helps farm operators to integrate multiple mechanized operations per pass of machinery in the field. Currently, this program is specifically targeting field crops arranged in rows where we are working integrating tractor auto-guidance with weed control and fertility management operations. This integration is directed towards achieving multiple functions per tractor pass, resulting in meaningful fuel savings and increased productivity. The goals of the program are to reduce the use of chemical herbicides, as well as lowering energy and labor requirements of weed and fertility management by integrating multiple operations in the same tractor pass in the field. The approach is to use rate controllers which are specialized equipment capable of controlling rates of application; and by using the latest in tractor guidance technology to improve on speed of operation and implement stability which is needed for close mechanical cultivation and precise side-dressing of liquid fertilizer materials.
Automated Technologies for Thinning and Intra-row Weeding Program
The goals of the Automated Technologies for Thinning and Intra-row Weeding Program are to (1) identify and/or develop economically viable, reliable automated thinning and in-row weeding technologies for commercial vegetable crop production and (2) educate growers about how automated thinning and weeding machine technologies can best be integrated into commercial farming practices. Growers, equipment manufacturers and fellow scientists are informed about advances in automated thinning and weeding machine technologies, and results of applied research trials by making presentations at grower meetings, hosting field days, making presentations at professional meetings, meeting with technicians, engineers and sales representatives of agricultural equipment manufacturers, writing publications, and working with journalist to produce popular press articles. These outreach means are also used to educate clientele about how these technologies can best be integrated into commercial farming practices.
Point injection Technology Systems
Point injection systems utilize spikes attached to a rotatable wheel to inject agricultural liquid chemicals into the soil with minimal root damage and soil disturbance. Research studies have shown that use of the system can improve nutrient use efficiency, provide measurable yield benefits and be used to successfully deliver soil applied pesticides post emergence. Few Arizona growers utilize this technology primarily because they are unaware of its existence or potential benefits. An outreach program is therefore needed to educate growers about this technology. The goals of the Improving Crop Production through Utilization of Point-injection Technology Program are to (1) introduce point injection systems to growers and educate them about its uses and benefits and (2) have growers adopt the technology and utilize it on their farms.