One of Precision Crop Tech’s drones, spraying down onto a farm field. (Contributed)

Agassiz study to look at drone use for pesticide application

The study will be the first in Canada to use drones to apply pesticides to farm fields

Studying different ways of applying pesticides to plants isn’t new to Markus Clodius. After all, that’s his main job at the Agassiz Research and Development Centre. But this summer might see Clodius researching whether a new kind of technology will be just as effective for putting pesticides on fields: drones.

“This kind of efficacy trial isn’t new to me,” Clodius said. “But this kind of efficacy trial with this kind of tech, that’s very new.”

Using drones in agriculture isn’t as avant-garde as it might seem. Government research facilities in Summerland and Atlantic Canada have used drones to monitor plant stress, while commercial growers have used drones for everything from manure application to visual reconnaissance.

But this study would be the first time drones have been used for pesticide application in Canada.

“This is kind of a dry run for us at this point,” Clodius explained. The trial — which is a partnership between the Agassiz Research Centre, provincial authorities, commercial representatives and Precision Crop Tech, an Abbotsford-based drone company — is still waiting for permits before it can do any sprays this summer.

“If pesticide application with drones are to become commonplace in the long term, there’s a number of regulatory hurdles that will have to be cleared,” he added.

RELATED: Drone operators subject to age limit, certification under new federal rules

Transport Canada has a role in licensing drones and their pilots. The provincial government has a role in licensing commercial pesticide applicators. Health Canada is responsible for deciding which pesticides can be applied in which ways, under the Pest Control Products Act.

Clodius’ study would be looking at the information Health Canada needs to make decisions for the Pest Control Products Act: how does the product work with a drone, how much is needed for proper coverage, what the pesticide drift is like and how much residue there is.

“Our piece of this is to look at the pesticide labels themselves, where Health Canada has regulatory authority, and say does this work with a drone?” he explained.

“Ultimately the decision is theirs, but we want to feed them information in hopes of getting the labels changed for small growers who basically wouldn’t have access to these things otherwise.”

Right now, pesticide application is limited to ground vehicles and manned aircraft. Using drones to apply pesticides would be considered an aerial application, and so would only be appropriate for pesticides that specifically allow for that kind of use.

But Clodius will be testing to see if drones can be just as effective as hand-held boom applications.

SEE ALSO: Century of farming research celebrated in Agassiz

This week, Clodius will be planting 10-plots of leeks in the Agassiz Research Centre field and inoculating them with thrips, a sucking pest no bigger than an eyelash. Then, likely sometime in July, he’ll be working with the owner of Precision Crop Tech to use drones to test two different kinds of pesticides on the leeks.

If it goes well, more studies could be in the future, as Health Canada decides what other information it needs to make decisions on what pesticides are drone-worthy.

“It’s hard to predict right now what way it will go,” Clodius said. “But that fact that these are being used for this purpose in other jurisdictions already suggests to me that there’s going to be economic pressure on our growers to adopt it sooner or later.”

According to Clodius, growers in China, Japan and parts of the United States are already using drones for pesticide application, and having the regulatory systems in place for them.

“Other countries have already been early adopters of this technology,” he said. “I expect that we’ll eventually follow. But we have some hoops to jump through first.”



grace.kennedy@ahobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Chilliwack maternity ward closure narrowed to two weeks

Fraser Health says they’ve found a solution to an expected 13-week shortage of obstetricians

Chilliwack students and staff perform with Steven Point

Chilliwack secondary school students and staff perform song written by former Lieutenant Governor

RCMP believe Missing Hope teenager was headed to Chilliwack

Keely Reeze Loewen, 18, last in contact with a family member on June 13

Chilliwack trustees divided on Trans Mountain pipeline route near two schools

School district will pen letter to NEB to ask for re-routing away from schools to be considered

After 30 years, Agassiz’s Miss Marge set to retire from Variety Play

From 1989 to today, Miss Marge has taken generations of kids through the district play program

VIDEO: Rare white killer whale captured by drone near Campbell River

The transient orca has been named Tl’uk, a Coast Salish word that means ‘moon.’

’When thunder roars, go indoors’: How to keep safe before lightning strikes

Each year, an estimated 10 deaths and as many as 164 injuries are lightning-related

B.C. rolls out online registration to speed up evacuee processing

Central Okanagan district tests province’s streamlined emergency management digital self-registration

VIDEO: After 73 years, siblings separated by adoption reunite in B.C

Donna Smith of Abbotsford and Clayton Myers of Williams Lake are glad they met each other

New Westminster police seek video of fight between two teens

Police responded to a fight at Pier Park in the early hours of June 14

B.C.-born Carey Price brings young fan to tears at NHL Awards banquet

Anderson Whitehead first met his hockey idol after his mother died of cancer

Licence issue delays boozing while cruising on BC Ferries

Planned June launch for alcohol sales delayed

B.C. school mourns after 13-year-old killed by fallen tree on field trip

Teenager died after being struck and pinned by tree while on a field trip near Sooke

Most Read