Drones Used To Diagnose Diseased Wheat Fields

Dec 10, 2013

A helicopter drone used by Dr. Charlie Rush, Texas A&M AgriLife plant pathologist in Amarillo, flies over a wheat field to track disease progression.
A helicopter drone used by Dr. Charlie Rush, Texas A&M AgriLife plant pathologist in Amarillo, flies over a wheat field to track disease progression.
Credit Kay Ledbetter / Texas A&M AgriLife Research

Dr. Charlie Rush is a plant pathologist at Texas A&M AgriLife Research in Amarillo.  He’s partnered with Ian Johnson, a Montana State University-Bozeman graduate student, who’s using his work in the university’s Science and Natural History Filmmaking Program to help conduct research using a helicopter drone according to AgriLife.

The pair hopes to use the drone to track disease progression across wheat fields to eventually help producers make better irrigation decisions.

Rush said high plains wheat is the second largest user of irrigation water from the Ogallala Aquifer.  Mite-vectored virus diseases are the predominate cause of damage in this region, and the bottom line is water and fertilizer are wasted on the diseased plants.  

That’s where Johnson’s skill set comes in.  Rush’s team uses a helicopter to take images of the field, with the hope of finding out what how much water and fertilizer should be spent on infected plants to maximize the use of resources.

Details about this process can be found at agrilife.org.