Drone : A new technology for agriculture

Weekly monitoring of a network of fodder plots representative of the different pedoclimatic contexts of the island (Grass Growth Observatory) has been set up by the ARP, in collaboration with the CIRAD SELMET team; this monitoring enables information to be collected on the dynamics of grass growth in order to provide farmers with indicators for efficient management of fodder resources.

Currently, biomass assessment requires a high number of measurements of grass cover height and biomass weight to take into account the heterogeneity of the plots monitored.

The UAV is now arriving as an innovative alternative to this study. The method, currently in the test phase, consists in using multispectral images (6 bands in the visible and infrared spectra) taken at low altitude (40 m) using a camera on board a UAV, to calculate different vegetation indices, related to the biomass available on the ground. The combination of these bands allows to obtain vegetation indices describing the stages of plant growth at a given time. These indices are widely used to identify and monitor the dynamics of vegetation but also to estimate biomass, leaf area index, etc.

This technique makes it possible to quickly assess the biomass available on forage plots over large areas.

At the end of the calibration phase, the methodology will be transferred to the professional partners (ARP); it will facilitate the collection of information (coverage of a 5 ha plot in 10 minutes) and will improve the accuracy of measurements (resolution of 2 cm on the ground) and thus better take into account intra-plot heterogeneity.

Photo : ECLIPSE project, all rights reserved