Agricultural monitoring and the potential of drone spraying in rice fields: new experiments started by the team of experts from the Hungarian University of Agricultural and Life Sciences (MATE) and ABZ Drone at the MATE Galambos Rice Experimental Station. The main objective is to use drones to measure in detail the current state of the developing rice plants and to detect as soon as possible where browning of the fields could occur. 

“MATE’s 15-hectare Galambos Rice Experimental Farm has a unique infrastructure specifically for rice breeding and field trials. One of the main objectives of the active research work being carried out here is to produce high quality propagating material of state-approved rice varieties with beneficial traits and to find solutions to the problems that domestic rice farmers face. The new experiments will now include state-of-the-art drones to achieve even more efficient results,” said Prof. Dr. Csaba Gyuricza, Rector of MATE.

“It means a lot to be able to use drones to check the current condition of the cane, its nutrient supply or the presence of pests from the air, without touching the plants, as trampling flooded areas has caused a lot of damage in the past. Through joint research, we want to ensure that drone sensors can identify the signs of browning caused by the fungus as early as possible, because if we can detect the first diseased shoots in time, we can control the spread of the disease by rapid and targeted drone spraying,” says Mihály Jancsó, a researcher at the MATE Galambos Rice Experimental Station.

Gyula Török, Managing Director of ABZ Drone Csaba Gyuricza, Rector of MATE and Mihály Jancsó, Research Associate of MATE

As Mihály Jancsó pointed out, water and humidity are constantly present in rice fields, which helps the fungus to grow, but there may be other environmental factors that, when combined, make the disease more likely to develop. This year, 10 hectares of rice have been sown on the experimental farm, so experts will be able to collect data on a large area to catch these traces. And if the data is good enough, agro-technological interventions can be carried out, also with the help of drones.

In addition to the survey drones, multispectral cameras and evaluation software used in the experiments, our team also has three different spraying drones with different sizes and droplet formation technology. If necessary, we will use these to approach and treat infested patches where we need to suppress epidemic browning during the experiments.

Drone Volt WJH20 sprayer and Yuneec H520E RTK monitoring drones

In the past decades, farmers have tended to rely on their experience, their in-depth (or often less in-depth) knowledge of their fields and generally accepted technological steps. This local knowledge is irreplaceable. Today, however, a wide range of drones and high-tech tools such as those described above can facilitate their daily work and production decisions. Our team, working closely with MATE and equipped with air traffic controllers, drone builders and crop protection specialists, is also working to make the work of agricultural professionals even more efficient by developing specialised drones.

Photos by Zoltán Babák