Kerala Agriculture University gets funding for research of drone technologies in agriculture.
The Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has given ₹ 65 lakh to the Kerala Agricultural University for research and demonstration of drone-based technologies in agriculture.
The remaining ₹ 30 lakh will be used by Krishi Vigyan Kendras in Wayanad, Palakkad, Kollam, and Kottayam to put on large-scale development of how drones can be used in fields. The ₹ 35 lakh will be used for research on drones.
KAU started testing drones in 2019, and different flight and spray parameters have been set. Biocontrol agents like Pseudomonas fluorescens and micronutrient formulations like Sampoorna for rice were used in the first tests.
From 2020 on, startups that KAU is helping have started spraying crops, especially rice, with drones based on procedures that have been standardized by the University and are in line with the Civil Aviation Ministry’s rules.
Drones have also been used for on-farm tests (OFTs) and front-line demonstrations by KVKs in the State. The use of drones to spray Sampoorna micronutrients has led to a 20–22% increase in crop yield.
The number of rice bugs in Palakkad has dropped by 80% thanks to the spraying of the fungus Beauveria bassiana from a drone. Trials have shown that spraying can be done 24 times faster with a drone than with a person.
Drones have been used to spray bio-control agents and water-soluble fertilizers on nearly 16,580 acres of paddy so far. Last year, KAU also used drones to spray rice fields in Thrissur that had bacterial leaf blight.
R. Chandra Babu, the Vice-Chancellor of the Kerala Agricultural University, said that the money will give a new boost to research and outreach in the field of drones. With the money, drone tests will be expanded to crops like pineapple, banana, ginger, turmeric, and tapioca.
He also said that KAU scientists will try to improve precision agriculture by using drones to monitor and keep an eye on crops.