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Enhanced Crop Production Efficiency Through Mechanized Integrated Pest Management Strategies

Sritharan, SU
Central State University
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Background and Major Goals of the ProjectThe overarching goals for this research are: 1) Improving Agriculture, Plants and Economics, and 2)Developing Better Social Economic Sustainable Communities. Agricultural producers have long sought cost-effective, labor friendly methods to maximize crop yields by controlling weeds and pests sustainably. This is especially true for specialty and organic crop producers. The proposed research will develop and evaluate possible enhancements to precision agriculture involving sensors and smart vision, as well as robotics and automation technologies to increase the efficiency of current pest management strategies. These technologies are being tested at Central State University (CSU) and relevant information will be extended into a mechatronics, integrated pest management research program. New, non-chemical methods for controlling weeds, such as directed energy, will be evaluated and tested for use in agricultural and conservation settings. Directed energy mimics the power of the sun with artificial light (40-80 times sun power) to kill weeds. As an outgrowth of a capacity-building grant, research into pest management machinery and weed identification software will continue to be integrated with smart vision to allow machines to distinguish weeds from crop plants to improve the efficiency of mechanized weed control. Alternate uses for this technology will be evaluated for controlling tree bark diseases including bacterial, insect and viral infections.The Central State University Land Grant Center (CSULGC) serves as an umbrella for the overall Land Grant program. Through the CSULGC, CSU is advancing its capacity to establish a valuable niche research area in alternative and specialty crops (e.g. amaranth, tree fruit and nut crops, medicinal plants and products, plants for biomass production) by developing economically viable food and non-food options for these crops. Underneath the CSULGC, the Center of Community, Farm, and Family Outreach (CCFFO) emphasizes advocacy, outreach, and assistance for socially disadvantaged, limited resource producers to promote their involvement in the agricultural economy and to provide information, education, assistance, and training to beginning farmers and ranchers. Under-represented and underserved persons/communities that can create sustainable economic impacts as small and specialty crop farmers and producers are the "destination" for qualified research results, technology, and technical assistance with best practices. With CSU assistance, an improved use of technology and proven approaches can lead to higher yields and higher profits without sacrificing organic/sustainable practices.Also within the CSULGC, the "Transition and Demonstration Capacity for Non-Chemical Weed Disruption in Agriculture" capacity building grant - now in its second year, has successfully demonstrated CSU's emerging capacity for applied research and technology transition.That research and technology "source" has:Successfully built expertise and capacity to research/demonstrate non-chemical alternatives for weed mitigation and controlEnhanced student and faculty research opportunities and performance, including publicationsIdentified and developed concepts for high value researchDemonstrated a partnership model with community businesses and farmersCreated pathways for transition to emerging businesses and farmers through related economic research and extensionCSU now proposes to bridge capacity source and community destination with an interdisciplinary research activity that transitions fundamental research into field-ready, non- chemical/directed energy products augmented with low cost smart sensors and precision imaging technologies. CSU research will focus on mechanized, cost affordable solutions to integrated pest management that when implemented, will enhance sustainable crop production and conservation in Ohio.Research focus areas will include:Plant Health, Production, and ProductsAgricultural Systems and Technologies to produce mechanized Organic and Sustainable, integrated pest management capabilitiesInnovative, Community-Centered Models Promoting Agriculture-driven Economic ImpactsEffective Technology Transition to Improve Agriculture Effectiveness and ProfitabilityCSU intends to use this interdisciplinary and integrated approach to address relevant issues that are interrelated to agricultural production and community planning and development. The research faculty will advance the science and economics of sustainable agriculture (both plant and animal). This planned program is dedicated to advancing science, teaching principles and application, and disseminating knowledge while conserving natural resources, preserving environmental quality, and ensuring the health and safety of people. This research will lead to the development of an agricultural mechatronics program at Central State University that will explore precision agriculture through machine vision, automation and robotics, sensing and control systems, and computer machine controls. Key knowledge areas include Basic Plant Biology, Weed Science, Machine Vision, Sensing and Control Systems, Computer Image Processing/Object and Identification, Manufacturing, Economics, and Accessible Market Analysis.Researcher partnerships will attempt to achieve certain objectives: a) explore strategies for communities to have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food; b) determine the economic and environmental impacts of renewable energy production and consumption; c) increase farm productivity and resource utilization efficiency; d) provide trade related educational programs, including trade shows, trade assistance, and consulting services; and e) identify the drivers of local economies and analyze their economic impact.Research Objectives:Develop novel, field-ready, scalable, integrated pest management strategies for agriculture, forestry, and other land management needs.Expand field testing and the range of plants/applications for current directed-energy, mechanized weed control systems already being tested at CSU.Demonstrate the economic benefit of these non-chemical alternatives versus traditional chemical weed control.Develop, test, and apply business models that take advantage of these benefits to small/specialty farms (existing and new farmers, producers).Adapt the underlying technology platform to new applications, informed by outcomes and potential new uses identified from CSU's existing (capacity building) research.
Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
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Education and Training
Policy and Planning