The next generation of agricultural technologies and systems is the focus of three USDA-funded research projects within the Biological Systems Engineering Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The projects were announced Oct. 17 by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture's (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).
The projects focus on high-resolution depth sensing of soils, next-generation spray drift mitigation and variable-rate irrigation technology. Work in these areas has already been established, and with support from AFRI, Nebraska researchers can continue to develop these technologies.
"Three of the 17 agricultural technology projects recently funded by the USDA are led by Nebraska's Biological Systems Engineering Department, which is a testament to the innovative approach by our researchers," said David Jones, interim department head of biological systems engineering. "Through these research projects, we will be able to bring the latest engineering technology to Nebraska's biological systems."
The three projects are:
• High-resolution depth sensing of soils. Yufeng Ge, assistant professor and Advanced Sensing Systems engineer, was awarded a three-year $499,896 grant to develop an instrumented soil penetrometer for gathering real-time and simultaneous prediction of a number of soil properties. This will be achieved through novel modeling algorithms that will relate in situ sensor data to lab-based VisNIR (visible and near infrared reflectance spectroscopy) spectral libraries.
While several technologies are available to characterize the variability of soil in the lateral dimension, the technology to obtain high-resolution soil data along the profile is not readily available. This goal of this project is to fill in that technological gap and deliver high-resolution, low-cost depth-wise soil data.
As part of the research, the sensing system will be field-tested in Nebraska, Texas and Alabama, with soils covering a wide range of climate, parent material and management practice. Clay content, organic matter, water content, bulk density and cation exchange capacity will all be studied in the project.
Ge is working with graduate students Nuwang Wijewardane and Ujjwol Bhandari, research technologist Tyler Smith, and soil scientists Christine Morgan of Texas A&M University and Jason Ackerson of Purdue University on the project.
• Innovation in drift reduction technologies. Research led by Joe Luck, associate professor of biological systems engineering and precision agriculture engineer, is focused on reducing negative impacts to society and the environment resulting from spray drift of pesticides. The four-year, $499,916 project will introduce next-generation technologies for controlling spray droplets during field applications.
This project builds off of previous research conducted by Luck and will combine field deployable, real-time weather monitoring with novel nozzle-control technology to affect spray droplet sizes during field applications.
Successful completion of this project would result in stimulation of research and development in nozzle technology where significant advancements in the field of drift reduction technologies would occur.
Spray drift issues were a hot topic with crop producers in Nebraska this year. An estimated 500,000 acres of dicamba-tolerant soybean were planted across the state, but some broadleaf crops sensitive to the herbicide were damaged due to drift.
In addition to Luck, Nebraska's Santosh Pitla and Greg Kruger are also working on this project, along with Michael Sama from the University of Kentucky.
• Advancing variable-rate irrigation technology using unmanned aircraft systems. Advancing variable rate irrigation technology across the Great Plains and the Midwest through improved water efficiency of irrigated, row-crop agriculture is the focus of a three-year, $499,978 grant awarded to Christopher Neale, professor in the Biological Systems Engineering Department and director of research at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska.
As part of the project, a team of engineers will fly drones over crops at the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center near Mead, and collect data using advanced remote sensing systems and in-field sensors. The research will study the integration of technical systems and information technology to assist complex, variable-rate irrigation decisions in typical large crop production areas and growing seasons.
The results of the research are expected to advance and accelerate adoption of UAS technologies, simulation models to information irrigation management and definition of a prescription for variable-rate irrigation technologies.
Others from Nebraska working on the project are Wayne Woldt, Derek Heeren, George Meyer, Joe Luck, Yufeng Ge and Daran Rudnick, along with postdoctoral researchers Burdette Barker and Geng "Frank" Bai, and graduate students Mitch Maguire and Sandeep Bhatti.
Source: IANR News