Field robot precisely controls weeds in sugar beets

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Südzucker, Amazone and FarmDroid test innovative solution for the precise application of crop protection agents in sugar beet cultivation.

How can sugar beets be protected as effectively as possible against weeds and pests during cultivation without having to spray pesticides over the entire area. This is the question being addressed in a trial project by Südzucker AG and agricultural technology company Amazone from Germany and Danish field robot manufacturer FarmDroid. Goal is to be able to reduce the use of herbicides and insecticides to a minimum by using the highly automated, solar-powered FarmDroid FD20 sowing and weeding robot and a special spot-spraying method. Initial, scientifically monitored trials are currently underway on a test field at Südzucker’s research farm in Kirschgartshausen near Mannheim.

Recognition of sugar beet plants

Recognition of weed plants

Precise grid

The FarmDroid FD20 robot is already being used on organic farms for sowing and mechanical weed control in sugarbeets and other crops. The field robot first sows sugarbeet seeds in a precise grid using its high precision GPS sowing system. The robot knows the exact position of the beets and subsequently hoes around this position, i.e. next to and between the rows, when removing weeds. However, in the immediate vicinity of the plant, it is difficult to remove all weeds without touching the beet plant. Amazone utilizes FarmDroids unique knowledge of the plant position, and based on this, Amazone has developed an innovative, precise field spraying system. This makes it possible to apply the herbicide precisely onto or next to the beet – with minimal use of the crop protection agent.

Under trial

Südzucker is currently testing this new development, which is unique to date, on a trial field covering about one hectare. Dr. Peter Risser, head of the Kirschgartshausen research farm: “Our initial trials are promising and impressively demonstrate the reduction potential of crop protection products when applied with pinpoint accuracy. The results of the field tests on the weeds will have to show whether the effect can keep pace with the standard treatment used today. The technology is also interesting for pest control or for fertilizing with micronutrients via the sugar beet leaf. This is also an exciting, future-oriented possible application for organic farming.”

Spot specific weeding and spraying

Spot application

Amazone came up with the idea to utilize the FarmDroid robot also for spot applications. “Sugar beet cultivation is facing great challenges due to the limitation of crop protection agents and the spread of diseases and pests,” says Stefan Kiefer, Head of Innovation in Crop Production at Amazone. “With our innovative development, we are helping to make cultivation both more effective and more environmentally friendly. In this context, the Farmdroid is an ideal platform for us to bring our technology into the field and to learn from each other.”

CO2 neutral

“Our robot supports farmers and reduces their costs for sowing and crop care,” explains René Jørgensen, CEO of FarmDroid. “The most important thing for us was to invent a sustainable, i.e. CO2-neutral, ecological and economic attractive alternative to conventional agricultural machinery. This is exactly what we have succeeded in doing with the FD20, which is solar-powered, lightweight, mechanical and fully automatic. The combination of our field robot with pinpoint spot application is a great fit for us, if it means it can contribute to significantly reducing the application of crop protection products in the future.”

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