Drone pilot project to help reduce water pollution

Thursday, July 30, 2020

TWF is proud to be investing in exciting drone technology which allows farmers to significantly reduce their use of crop fertilizers, in what is known as precision agriculture.

The use of high-tech agricultural drones increases efficiency in the farming process while helping to protect our local waterways from nutrient-rich run off.

TWF has awarded a grant of $3,000 to J&M Roberts Farms, which will support their investment in drone technology. The drone used by J&M has a special sensor to measure “plant greenness”, creating an aerial map which determines varying nitrogen application levels over the field.

By using the drone, farmer Matt Roberts expects to save 1600 lbs of Nitrogen per year just by not applying as much Nitrogen in the areas in the field that doesn’t need it. He is also expecting somewhere between 10-30 lbs of Nitrogen per acre to be reallocated to areas of the field that have the ability to use it, rather than it leeching away in the watershed.

“The drones essentially allow the crop to tell us how much fertilizer it needs, rather than guessing and over applying,” said TWF watershed conservationist Brad Clayton.

“I’m excited to see the results of J&M Roberts Farms use of the drone, and the opportunities it grants us to help producers in our watershed. By using this technology, we can save a significant amount of Nitrogen from going into the Tippecanoe River that then ends up in the Gulf of Mexico where there have been significant damages caused by over application of Nitrogen fertilizers.”

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