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India - Now drones hit pest, weeds in crops in Punjab

Massive financial losses by crop weeds and pest attacks are possible to avoid now after the Punjab government has first time across the country granted using Unmanned Air Vehicle drone technology in agriculture sector for the application of pesticides on crops, monitoring weeds, pests and nutritional deficiencies.

Currently, the UAV drones are being used elimination of terrorism networks in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan; now drone will kill crop pests and monitor weeds’ growth at massive level in almost all the agriculture districts of Punjab.

Agriculture officials say that farmers would have to arrange or purchase their own drones for agriculture purposes. The farmers have been required to submit an application with respective district Deputy Director Agriculture Extension and he would forward the application to District Implementation Committee comprising of Deputy Commissioner and District Police Officer of concerned district where the drone is required for agriculture purposes.

The DIC would issue No-Objection Certificate after deeply studying all cases. The NOC would carry all information about drone utilization including time scale, place where the drone is required.

The DIC would be responsible for the security and safety of sensitive places located across the agriculture field where the drones are required.

Talking to The News, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif University of Agriculture vice chancellor Prof Dr Asif Ali says the recent decision of Punjab government to introduce drones in agriculture sector is appreciable in this regard. Drones equipped with hyper spectral, multispectral, or thermal sensors can identify any part of field, and will be major breakthrough in Pakistani agriculture in areas of crop and weed mapping, monitoring soil and field survey, predictive modeling, pest scouting, pesticide application, and irrigation management etc.

Moreover, drones will also be helpful in managing natural disasters like storms, floods and earth quacks without risking human lives.

The advent of such new technologies in era of computers and electronics will revolutionize the contemporary agriculture in Pakistan.

Growers say the drone technology also helps to capture the differentiation in fruiting, color, growth of the plant – about what’s going wrong and then the farmers are issued proper advisories by the scientists – whether it’s about less watering, fertilizers, more or less chemicals etc. This is quite a next generation assessment of crops.

Mango Growers Association President Syed Zahid Hussein Gardezi says that according to a research, the norms set by the scientists, the crop is expected to exhibit certain standard characteristics after a specific timeframe after the sowing period.

For example, the age of the crop, if it is a thirty-day crop or a forty-day crop; what should be the height, the color configuration or the fruiting level of the crop? Drones can help us identify if the crop is not fruiting as per the norms, if it’s over fruiting or if it’s mellowing down in color configuration. The drones can be configured to navigate in a 30 meter by 30-meter plot to assess the damage, he says.

“Farmers want to have accurate and up-to-date information on crops health and land fertility status. In this context, drones are very effective tools to get all these information. Moreover, drones can help in generation of accurate 3-D maps for early soil analysis in order to optimize planting patterns, irrigation scheduling and nutrients management and crop spraying”, Zahid Gardezi adds.

Agriculture officials say the drone technology would safe crops from destruction after technical monitoring of weeds and pest attack at large scales.

“The 100pc failure of all crops is possible due to weeds and pest attack and it reduces crop production size from 15pc to 42pc. The drone technology would remove the present defective spray techniques. The failure in curbing weeds and pest attack means saving all crops including cotton, wheat, sugarcane, mangoes and other crops from large scale damage A UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle) drone consist of a small-unmanned aircraft and after the success of this technology, it is ready to astound the agricultural sector”, Multan Agriculture Information Assistant Director Naveed Asmat Kahloon says.

Farmers say the drone technology permission is a revolutionary step leading to enhancement of per acre production and yield size in agriculture districts facing serious challenges from uncontrolled weeds growth and pest attacks.

“A faint dream to expect high crop yield potential with taking weeds management through drones has come true. The drone technology would reduce environmental hazards and management constraints, reckon the weeds as the prime threat to the crops, and yield potential across the province”, Multan district Kisan Committee President Malik Iqbal says.

Muhammad Nawaz Sahrif University of Agriculture Prof Dr Amar Matloob says that due to diverse agro-climatic conditions of Pakistan, 267 weed species have been identified that cause monetary loss worth 3 billion US$ annually. Out of these, approximately 160 have been reported as weeds in Punjab; of which 50 are serious weeds causing major economic losses in major field crops.

Farm experts say that weeds are the plants with specific features helping them to infest and invade in the crops and to succeed under a wide range of environmental and climatic conditions. Weeds act differently in different habitats. Weeds also provide shelter to the insects and diseases causing pests, resultantly lowering the quality of produced and sometimes cause complete failure of crop.

Available statistics say the cash crop cotton hit by severe pest attack received in August last in eleven districts of southern Punjab when the Agriculture Department discovered hot spots in cotton growing districts. The sucking pests’ whitefly, jassid, mealy bug, big bollworm, armyworm and heliothis badly destroyed cotton crop this year.

The hard hit areas by pest attack include Rahimyar Khan, Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Multan, Sahiwal and Pakpatan districts remained hard hit districts in pest attack.

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