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Variable rate application of plant protection products (PhD)

Project number 2140012101

Lead partner Cranfield University

Start date September 2017

End date September 2020

AHDB funding £54,000

Total funding £54,000

The challenge

There has been a great deal of discussion on ways to improve the sustainability of production and, at the same time, how to maximise profitability in the arable sector. More precise application of plant protection products (PPPs) could play an important contribution. Variable rate application of PPPs to cereal crops is technically feasible with off-the-shelf commercial equipment. However, the agronomic and economic rationale for variable rate applications of PPPs is not clear.

The project

The variable rate application of PPPs to cereal crops will be examined by this project. It will explore fundamental mechanisms involved in determining the dose received by the plant. The hypothesis is that to achieve optimum performance, doses of PPPs should be applied per gram of plant material (for systemic products) or per unit surface area (for contact-acting products).

The work includes four key work packages:

1. Review dose adjustment and optimisation approaches for cereal crops, identify the situations (crop, pest, disease, product) where the hypothesis is most likely to be true and develop a model system (crop, PPP and application method)

2. Develop a model that relates applied dose to actual dose for the model crop(s) for a ‘standard’ application method, using existing sensors and/or manual methods

3. Identify the circumstances for which the project hypothesis is true and develop algorithms for optimising dose for different crop characteristics for the model system

4. Undertake a cost-benefit analysis for the model system

The benefits

The project will play a key role in the optimisation of PPP applications. Optimisation has direct economic benefits (e.g. better targeted sprays) and indirect benefits (e.g. protection of PPP efficacy and reduced environmental impact).

The work will also help direct the future of variable rate application technology. It will also improve understanding of the mechanisms important in delivering a dose of PPP to a crop and how the application process can be optimised.

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